Former French culture minister calls for halt to restoration of Galerie Vivienne

The character of the 19th-century glass-covered gallery, a National Historic Monument, would be wiped out by the renovation, Jack Lang says

The ongoing renovation of the Galerie Vivienne—a covered shopping passageway built in 1823 in Paris’s second arrondissement near the Palais-Royal—has been publicly criticised by Jack Lang, who served as France’s minister of culture in the 1980s.

Lang, now the head of the Institut du monde arabe in Paris, sent a letter to the current minister of culture Audrey Azoulay on 21 July calling on her to halt the €864,000 renovation, launched in January. He said the work “will result in the definitive disappearance of protected heritage… essential to the charm and identity of Paris”. The news broke in the French press this week, but the Minister of Culture has yet to publicly respond.

Lang said that the Galerie Vivienne, which was declared a National Historic Monument in 1974, is a rare and unique space, and calls the renovation a failure in terms of “the pictorial character, the coherence of colours and the authenticity of materials”. He is particularly critical of the replacement of the old vaulted glass ceiling with “white and transparent greenhouse glass”.

A petition has also been launched to halt the renovation, which has more than 1,000 supporters. Calling the project an “attack on the architecture of a protected space”, the petition likewise points to the change in glass as a major issue, and accuses the restoration of changing the overall aesthetic of the covered gallery to colours and materials “much closer to German Rococo than the 19th-century”.

“No need to be a trained architect or a specialist in art history to ascertain that the famous Galerie Vivienne… is currently undergoing a renovation that absolutely does not respect the authenticity, the identity and the charm of this passageway,” the petition reads.