The first regional offshoot of Paris’ Louvre, built in the former mining town of Lens, opened to the press on Monday (December 3), and its organizers hope the satellite will help revamp the Louvre's reach and reignite the city of Lens' struggling economy.
The 150 million euro art centre, which was inaugurated by President Francois Hollande on Tuesday (December 4), will house a rotating collection of 205 works from the Louvre museum in Paris, along with temporary exhibitions.
The building itself sits on a disused coalmine, homage to a once-thriving coal industry, and a reminder of an industrial decline that has sapped the region of jobs.
Today, Lens' unemployment rate stands at 16 percent, well above the national average of 10.2 percent.
The Lens branch is the first ever regional offshoot of the Louvre, which is also planning a brand new museum in Abu Dhabi for 2014.
"It was very important for the Louvre to be in a place where you didn't have any culture before," he told Reuters.
"And Lens, it's the coal industry and it's a territory which was completely damaged by the first world war. So you bring something that's quite a wonderful experience I have to say," he said.
Authorities for the surrounding region hope the museum will draw 500,000 visitors a year, from locals to tourists from Paris, London, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Paris Louvre is one of the most-visited museums in the world with around 9 million visitors a year.