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Paris mayor wants to turn city into ‘refuge’ for works in conflict zones

Anne Hidalgo’s plan, which has drawn fire, involves storing items threatened by conflict in buildings owned by the city authority

Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, speaking during a press conference for Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon Photo: David Fitzgerald/Web Summit via Sportsfile

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has announced plans to turn the French capital into a “refuge” for items worldwide at risk of destruction, placing endangered objects in storage in secure buildings owned by the city authorities.

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Hidalgo announced in an official council meeting last week that she plans to convert several hundred square metres of secure, flood-proof space belonging to Crédit Municipal de Paris—the finance and banking arm of the City of Paris authority—into special storage areas for objects under threat. The City of Paris declined to comment further.

We must act now to stop landmark churches such as Saint-Séverin [in the Latin Quarter] from being destroyed, rather than trying to save international works. Didier Rykner, French art critic

The mayor plans to collaborate with the Geneva-based foundation, the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (Aliph), on the initiative. The foundation, named after the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, was founded by the governments of France and the United Arab Emirates. The organisation is chaired by the US billionaire Thomas Kaplan and its members include Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre. A spokeswoman for Aliph says that Kaplan is unavailable for comment.

Among those criticising Hidalgo’s proposal is the French art critic Didier Rykner, who says that the City of Paris should first focus on heritage sites in the city such as churches and fountains. “We must act now to stop landmark churches such as Saint-Séverin [in the Latin Quarter] from being destroyed, rather than trying to save international works.” Officials from the City of Paris were not immediately available for comment.