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Louvre Museum in Lens

A journalist walks past "Saint Sebastien" a painting by Pietro Di Cristforo Vannucci in the Louvre Museum in Lens.

Louvre Museum in Lens

December 4, 2012

The Louvre has embarked on an ambitious quest – opening a €150 million ($196 million) extension in an abandoned coal mining town in northern France that has an unemployment rate nearly three times the national average.

The "Louvre-Lens" project – housed in a futuristic glass and aluminum complex. Proponents say the complex will offer culture to the less cultivated provinces and give residents a unique opportunity to see high-end art. But for all its trumpeting of uniting everyone through art, the slick museum building instead highlights the contrasts with Lens' depressed city center, which is riddled with closed shops, abandoned houses, angry residents and a boarded-up cinema.