Moving art

The Louvre plans to take more than 250,000 artworks from Paris to a new site north of the city.

In a highly controversial initiative, the Louvre plans to move more than 250,000 artefacts and works of art from Paris to a new reserve site in Liévin, a small city 200km north of the capital. Scheduled to start in 2018, the art convoy will be the largest of its kind since the Second World War, says The Art Newspaper.

With more than 460,000 pieces, of which only 35,000 are on display, the Louvre houses the world's richest art and archeological collection. The idea behind the move is to protect the museum's reserves, currently stored under the royal palace next to the Seine, from a flood similar to the one that submerged the centre of Paris in 1910. Experts say such floods are likely to occur every 100 years.

Nevertheless, the project has plenty of naysayers. In October 2014, 42 of the Louvre's 45 curators sent a letter of protest to the museum's president and the French minister of culture and communication. "A museum without its reserves is like a plane without engines," they wrote. "It looks all beautiful and glittering, but it won't move." The 250,000-piece reserve, they claim, is required for research and conservation purposes, which will be “paralyzed” by the move.

Protests also came from other parts of the world, such as Oxford and Harvard universities. “Ready access to the Louvre reserves is absolutely essential for scholarship and academic research,” wrote Oxford University's Michael Tite.

But the move has also garnered support. Last June, eight Louvre department directors wrote an op-ed supporting it, claiming that it will bring many improvements: better working conditions, separate spaces for study and adequate environmental conditions.

Despite the controversy, the project is still “on track,” and trains will be rolling in the not-too-distant future.