Lens wins battle to host 'Louvre2'

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The Independent Online

Lens, fewer than 50 miles from the Channel tunnel in north-east France, is to be home to an "overspill" branch of the celebrated Louvre museum in Paris.

Lens, fewer than 50 miles from the Channel tunnel in north-east France, is to be home to an "overspill" branch of the celebrated Louvre museum in Paris.

An announcement by the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, confirmed that the former mining town would have a 600-work collection when the "Louvre 2" opened in spring 2009.

Despite its unglamorous industrial image, Lens beat competition from five other towns in the north of France to secure the project, which is intended to provide a much-needed cultural and economic boost to the region. Calais, Boulogne, Arras, Amiens and Valenciennes were rejected in favour of Lens, known for its successful football side.

A 20-hectare (49-acre) area of disused mining land has been earmarked for the development at a cost of €100m (£70m). Within walking distance of Lens city centre and with good road and rail connections, the museum will be easily accessible to visitors from across northern Europe. British visitors arriving in Calais can drive to Lens in less than an hour.

The exhibits will be drawn from the vast numbers now in storage in the main Louvre because of a lack of space in the galleries. More famous pieces from the museum will also be lent on a system of rotation, and there are plans for exhibitions of works from around the world.

"Louvre 2" conceived a year ago under the former culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon, is a step towards cultural decentralisation in France.

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