Louvre strikes artworks to a protected home in a preemptive bid to protect them in opposition to Seine’s floodwater

Louvre strikes artworks to a protected home in a preemptive bid to protect them in opposition to Seine’s floodwater

Already 100,000 works have been moved — together with work, carpets, tapestries, grand sculptures, small collectible figurines, furnishings and ornamental items — courting from antiquity to the nineteenth century.

It’s the most bold transfer within the historical past of the Louvre — a five-year mission to switch 250,000 artistic endeavors to an ultramodern storage website 190 kilometres away in northern France.

For greater than 16 months, a stream of vehicles has quietly hauled treasures from the museum’s central Paris basement, and different websites, to the Louvre Conservation Heart, a fortress of tradition arrange in Liévin, a city close to Lens.

Already 100,000 works have been moved — together with work, carpets, tapestries, grand sculptures, small collectible figurines, furnishings and ornamental items — courting from antiquity to the nineteenth century.

With museums in France closed due to the pandemic, Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre, has time on his arms. Just lately he took a small group of reporters on a tour of the newly operational website, which is meant to turn into one in every of Europe’s largest artwork analysis centres and to welcome museum specialists, students and conservators from world wide.

The Louvre sits on low floor alongside the banks of the Seine. In 2016, flooding in Paris was so extreme that the museum itself was threatened, prompting a round the clock, emergency operation to wrap, crate and haul hundreds of artwork objects out of underground storage and onto greater floor.

The conservation mission in Liévin, costing 60 million euros (about $73 million), started in late 2017 as a essential response to the river’s unpredictable, inevitable rise.

Louvre moves artworks to a safe house in a preemptive bid to preserve them against Seines floodwater

Staff transfer artworks on the Louvre Conservation Heart, in Lievin, France, Feb. 9, 2021. The museum hopes the power will turn into one in every of Europe’s largest artwork analysis facilities. (Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Instances)

“The fact is that our museum is in a flood zone,” Martinez stated on the tour. “You may’t simply choose up and transfer marble sculptures round,” he famous. “There was a hazard that the sewers would again up and that soiled, smelly wastewater would harm the artwork. We needed to discover a resolution. Urgently.”

The Louvre thought of, then rejected, the concept of constructing a website near Paris: too costly and impractical. As an alternative, it selected Liévin, a 10-minute stroll from the Louvre’s mini-museum outpost within the adjoining city of Lens, which opened in 2012.

This pocket of France, as soon as a affluent mining centre, has by no means recovered economically from the bombing it suffered in World Struggle I and the collapse of the coal business. Native authorities have been so wanting to increase the Louvre’s presence — and to attract guests — that it offered a lot of the land for the Conservation Heart for the symbolic sum of 1 euro.

The glass, concrete and metal construction, which opened in October 2019, appears like a Bauhaus-style bunker partially buried within the panorama.

A subsoil of chalky sand above chalk bedrock absorbs extra rainfall. A particular German-made leak detection system double-waterproofs the roof. Advanced safety methods defend in opposition to terrorist assaults and hearth. Vibrant inexperienced lights hanging all through the power lure and kill harmful enemies just like the frequent furnishings beetle.

Louvre moves artworks to a safe house in a preemptive bid to preserve them against Seines floodwater

Artwork on the Louvre Conservation Heart, in Lievin, France, Feb. 9, 2021. The museum hopes the power will turn into one in every of Europe’s largest artwork analysis facilities. (Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Instances)

Vans transfer the artworks right into a storage the place they’re unloaded and positioned in a brief chamber to acclimate them to their environment and get rid of contaminants. Six concrete-wall storage vaults, every specializing in a special kind of object, stretch over virtually 2.4 acres (9,712 sq. metre). There are areas for artisans, restorers, researchers and photographers from the Louvre and ultimately for these from different museums as effectively. The Louvre hopes the location might sooner or later present a haven for artwork at risk of destruction in nations going through warfare and battle.

Touring the vaults with their hovering ceilings, fluorescent lighting and floor-to-ceiling home windows, Martinez stopped in a single the place chunks of marble and stone have been wrapped in plastic and stacked in wood crates on heavy metallic cabinets.

“In a storage facility that’s effectively carried out, there’s not a lot to see,” he stated, a touch of apology in his voice. “Every thing is wrapped up tight.”

Instantly, on a excessive shelf close to the ceiling, he noticed an intricate work in marble, sculpted by Bernini and meant as the bottom for a well-known historical statue within the Louvre of a sleeping hermaphrodite. After which, on a decrease shelf, he identified a 1,300-pound chunk of stone that was as soon as a part of a constructing close to the traditional Greek website of the “Victory of Samothrace,” one other treasured sculpture from the Louvre assortment.

“A researcher may ask to see the Bernini, or say, ‘I need to see the piece from Samothrace!’” he stated.

In a close-by vault, Isabelle Hasselin, a senior curator, examined and cataloged greater than a dozen small terra cotta collectible figurines of the Roman goddess Minerva, present in Turkey. Hasselin lifted one, which confirmed two girls, arm in arm, from a drawer of a metallic cupboard, explaining the way it had been badly restored with glue and a metallic pin within the Sixties.

“We’re capable of do deep analysis right here, away from the hustle and bustle of Paris — and away from the fear of flooding,” she stated. “What a aid.”

Louvre moves artworks to a safe house in a preemptive bid to preserve them against Seines floodwater

A preparatory research by the Sixteenth-century Italian artist Giulio Romano within the Louvre Conservation Heart, in Lievin, France, Feb. 9, 2021. The museum hopes the power will turn into one in every of Europe’s largest artwork analysis facilities. (Dmitry Kostyukov/The New York Instances)

With 620,000 works, the Louvre’s assortment is the most important on this planet. Solely 35,000 of them are on show in Paris; one other 35,000 are shared out round regional museums in France. Greater than 250,000 drawings, prints and manuscripts — too fragile to be uncovered to mild — will keep in storage within the Paris Louvre, on a excessive ground protected from flooding.

The basement isn’t the Louvre’s solely refuge for unseen artworks. Some are hidden in different storage areas all through the museum; others are saved in secret areas across the nation, the place they have been moved for safekeeping over time. By the tip of December, 80 p.c of the works in probably the most susceptible flood zones had been moved out, in keeping with Brice Mathieu, the Conservation Heart’s director.

Within the course of, curators have made some shocking discoveries. A forgotten wood crate turned out to be full of 6,000-year-old ceramic fragments from the traditional Persian metropolis of Susa; restorers pieced it collectively right into a vase. One other discover from Susa was a stone shoulder that belonged to the museum’s 4,000-year-old sculpture of the goddess Narundi.

As Martinez wandered the halls of the centre with Marie Lavandier, the director of the Louvre-Lens museum, they stumbled on an 18th-century leather-based field embellished in gold fleur-de-lis that most likely as soon as held a crown. Lavandier took {a photograph} on her cellphone.

“I see an object like this, and I say to myself, really, we’re defending all of the treasures and the sophistication of the museum all through its historical past,” she stated. “It strikes me to the core.”

Elaine Sciolino c.2021 The New York Instances Firm

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