At a press conference this morning in Paris at the headquarters of the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), France’s national space agency, Louvre President Jean-Luc Martinez announced that the museum plans to open an outpost on the moon by 2026. The new satellite space, to be named “Louvre Lune,” will be distinguished from the main branch of the Louvre in Paris, its smaller outpost in Lens, and a branch currently under construction in Abu Dhabi by its focus on contemporary art.
“Everyone associates the Louvre with our collection of historical objects, from the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace to our unparalleled Islamic art collection and trove of Egyptian antiquities, which is marvelous,” Martinez said. “But we also want people to think of us as being engaged with the art that’s happening today and the art of the future, and what could be more futuristic than a museum in space?”
Louvre Lune will launch with a novel take on the biennial, dubbed the “Lunennial,” a series of exhibitions that will rotate every 28 days in keeping with the lunar cycle. The Lunennial will have a dual focus, dealing not only with the visual and material culture left behind by space exploration missions, but also the rich history of contemporary artists sending art into outer space. The inaugural Lunennial will be curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.
“I am truly over the moon at the prospect of curating in space,” Christov-Bakargiev said at Friday’s press conference. “I think people imagine the moon as a kind of blank canvas, but it is in fact rich in objects, textures, overlapping histories, and rocks. I look forward to excavating these legacies and exposing the public to a different, dark side of the moon.”
The slate for the inaugural Lunennial is a survey of artists’ space- and moon-related projects, including Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures; the famed “Moon Museum” disk inscribed with works by Robert Rauschenberg, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and others; Voyager 1’s Golden Record; and the recent Moon Ark project. Subsequent Lunennial editions will feature a retrospective of space-mission patch designs and a new version of Tom Sachs’s sprawling performance and installation Space Mission: Mars, titled Space Mission: Moon, which will invite Louvre Lune visitors to take part in a bespoke astronaut training program. The Lunennial’s special programs — including workshops for artists looking to incorporate lunar gravity and moon rocks into their practices, and a series of panels featuring Hans Ulrich Obrist, Marina Abramović, and Kanye West — will be housed in a pavilion designed by Shigeru Ban that will be built from objects recovered from the surface of the moon.
“The pavilion will resemble a large, communal tent, with the many flags left on the moon’s surface serving as a kind of canopy,” Ban said. “The tent’s poles will be made from parts of lunar landing modules, defunct lunar rovers, and manmade satellites that have crashed on the moon. My goal was to keep the project’s ecological footprint as minimal as possible, which is much easier to do on the moon because there’s so little gravity.”
The bulk of Louvre Lune’s regular programming will be housed in the museum’s main building, an ultra lightweight full-scale replica of the Louvre pyramid designed by I.M. Pei. Asked who will construct the new Louvre location on Earth’s only natural satellite, Martinez said the museum has retained the services of Arabtec, the contractor that’s developing many of the projects on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, including the Louvre branch. “The Abu Dhabi project has gone very smoothly,” Martinez said, “I’m sure they’re up to the challenges of running a safe and efficient construction site on the moon.”