McDonald's plans to open a franchise in the underground shopping mall at Paris' famed Louvre art museum. Critics say even a more upscale than usual McDonald's will not meet the Louvre's standards.
McDonald's plans to open a franchise in the underground shopping mall at Paris' famed Louvre art museum. Critics say even a more upscale than usual McDonald's will not meet the Louvre's standards. Francois Mori/AP
French culture and American convenience will come together in Paris soon: McDonald's Corp. plans to open a restaurant in the forecourt of the Louvre art museum in December. But the idea is meeting with sharp criticism from the French art community.
With its vaulted ceilings and polished, granite walls, the upscale shopping mall beneath the museum — known as Le Carrousel du Louvre — has the same I.M. Pei architecture as the museum. The mall almost feels like an extension of the Louvre itself, and that's partially why the idea of a McDonald's there is ruffling feathers.
Didier Rykner, chief editor of the French art journal The Art Tribune, is one critic.
"They say, 'Oh, it's going to be a very high-level McDonald's,' " Rykner says, laughing. "I don't know what is a 'high-level McDonald's!' "
Rykner says the initial contract for the mall when it opened 20 years ago stipulated only cultural and high-profile shops.
After the United States, France is McDonald's largest market. Here, a McDonald's franchise on the Champs-Elysees in Paris sits in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, just blocks from the Louvre.
After the United States, France is McDonald's largest market. Here, a McDonald's franchise on the Champs-Elysees in Paris sits in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, just blocks from the Louvre. Laurent Rebours/AP
But officials from the Louvre are assuring critics that a quality McCafe will be positioned in the underground approach to its entrance. The restaurant will represent the American segment of a new food court featuring world cuisines and coffee shops.
Rykner says that although the French do enjoy fast food, it should remain separate from art.
"It doesn't fit together because I think McDonald's is one of the lowest level of cooking, and Louvre is one of the biggest level in art," he says.
France is McDonald's biggest market after the United States, but many in France see the fast-food chain as the Trojan horse of globalization and the scourge of the traditional French meal.
Popular daily newspaper Le Parisien sardonically compared Ronald McDonald to Venus de Milo and said the decision could result in the fragrance of fries drifting under the Mona Lisa's nose.
Jeanne Bossieu says she regularly visits the museum and that she is bothered by the idea of a McDonald's there.
"I think the museum will lose some of its grandeur if there's a McDonald's here in this close vicinity," Bossieu says. "And it may attract people who aren't necessarily interested in visiting the Louvre."
Rykner says it is not McDonald's fault. He blames the Louvre for selling out to commercialism and mass marketing. He is still angry at the museum for selling its name like a designer brand, he says, to an art museum in Abu Dhabi two years ago.