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The fascination of the depths at the Louvre-Lens
la-fascination-des-trefonds-au-louvre-lens - ARTACTIF
July 2024 | Reading time: 19 Min | 0 Comment(s)

About the exhibition “Underground Worlds. 20,000 places under the earth” visible at the Louvre-Lens until July 22.

Since its inauguration in December 2012, I have been a huge fan of the Louvre-Lens, this fabulous museum built on the former pit n°9 of the Lens mines, in Pas-de-Calais. I always look at the slag heaps with emotion as I look for a parking space for my trailer. Because the only fault in my opinion of this museum, and of many museums elsewhere, is to offer parking only to visitors whose vehicle does not exceed 1.80 m in height... But hey, when we lives in a van, we are so used to this kind of restriction that we know how to get around the obstacle to still enjoy works of art... In short. If I always cite the Louvre-Lens as a model of a cultural establishment striving to make access as simple as possible for all audiences, it is because I am thinking of its famous Galerie du temps. I remain amazed to have seen entire families strolling there with strollers, strolling peacefully between thousand-year-old works of art, as if these 3,000 m2 finally replaced the shopping malls of shopping centers. Because access to this immense, stocked art gallery, not with works of art for sale, but with masterpieces regularly replaced by the Louvre to tell the story of humanity, is completely free. Welcome to window shopping paradise!

Normal you will tell me, when we know that the Louvre-Lens represents the realization of a hope of renewal for the mining basin and responds to an unprecedented museum responsibility: to engage in the social and economic renewal of the territory, thanks to culture and education. But given that all museums are today thinking about their purpose and the best ways to encourage the population to open their doors, the model is truly formidable and deserves to be known.

The fact remains that you will have to pay an entrance fee to access the temporary exhibitions. I imagine that in economic terms we had to juggle a little... Given their interest and their always breathtaking scenographies, I reassure you: they are worth it. Until July 22, the Louvre-Lens is interested in underground worlds: the least you can do when built on old mines. Even more so when we join in the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the historic mining center of Lewarde, not far from Douai, 35 km from Lens, in the North. Thus the exhibition “Underground Worlds. 20,000 places under the earth” is visible at the Louvre-Lens until July 22. Because the underground worlds have always fascinated men, whether to extract their resources or to fuel their phantasmagoria, it was logical that artists should have seized them... since the dawn of time!

What is happening underground? What do these worlds that feed our imaginations look like? In response to our questions raised by all forms of life underground, real or dreamed, the exhibition offers a sensitive exploration of these underground worlds. By turns frightening and inspiring, they are often the mirror of our societies and the human soul. From dark depths to mythical worlds, to the teeming worlds of countercultures, the reality of the underground is multiple. These 20,000 places underground, explored by speleologists, miners or metro users, are equally fascinating to literature and cinema, from Dante to Quentin Tarantino. In a journey of more than 200 works of art covering all eras and civilizations, from engravings by Gustave Doré to poetic sculptures by Éva Jospin, the exhibition invites you on a fabulous journey, from shadow to light.

The journalist from L’Oeil magazine, Isabelle Manca-Kunert, made it the subject of her column “6 keys to understanding” for the month of May. An oil on canvas by John Melhuish Strudwick from 1875, entitled The Golden Thread, illustrates his first key to reading the imaginations of the subsoil. The British painter in fact composes a universe divided into three symbolic registers: the heavens, the earth and the underground. “The destiny of mortals appears inseparable from the action of the Fates, these Greco-Roman mythological powers weaving the thread of life in the underworld,” explains the journalist.

To address the theme of the kingdom of the dead traditionally associated with the underworld, she chose Hercules snatching Alceste from the Underworld, an oil on canvas from 1806, by Joseph Franque. “At least since ancient Egypt, the underworld has been universally equated with the realm of the dead. This relationship is explained by the fact that in most civilizations, the dead are returned to the earth in tombs directly excavated in the ground or dug into the rock; even in the context of the catacombs, in a real mortuary city set up under the city and frequented by the living,” recalls Isabelle Manca-Kunert.

It is an engraving by Piranesi, taken from the series Prisons dating from around 1750, that the journalist chose to illustrate the depths embodying “the ideal place to banish what society does not want to tolerate within it. The natural crevices thus turn into jails and dungeons. Imaginary architectures also come to life in this terrifying world. » Piranesi's engravings indeed magnificently evoke these places of punishment, while also prefiguring the disturbing school of libertinism that the Marquis de Sade located in a vaulted dungeon which is accessed by descending three hundred steps...

“Inaccessible and partially visible, this opaque and secret world sharpens the imagination to become the seat of the worst nightmares as well as utopian daydreams,” writes Isabelle Manca-Kunert. “Very early on, man fantasized about the idea of ​​living underground to protect himself, but also to work, and even move around more easily than on the surface. Several centuries before the invention of the metro, men were already digging tunnels to make traffic flow more smoothly. » The cave of Pausilippe in Naples represented by Hubert Robert on an oil on canvas from 1760-1761 is a striking example of this 4th key to reading. Not only did it allow the Romans under the reign of Augustus to connect Naples to Pozzuoli, but it also housed the presumed tomb of Virgil...

The underground worlds as a magical and mystical space also allow us to admire Jean-Francis Auburtin's Songs on Water, an oil on canvas from 1912 where nymphs enchant the entrance to a cave, while a photographic portrait of miner dating from the 1910s concludes the section of L'Oeil with a sixth key necessarily devoted to the hero of the depths who has also enormously inspired artists, whether academic or avant-garde: we are at the Louvre-Lens, let us render to Caesar what is Caesar's.


Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri in Roulotte

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