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Billionaire Bernard Arnault expands his Parisian museum empire

Luxury goods magnate plans to transform the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires into a cultural centre

By Gareth Harris

The French luxury goods billionaire Bernard Arnault is due to open a new museum in Paris, with plans to transform a defunct institution located in the western Bois de Boulogne area.

According to the newspaper Le Parisien, the former Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires will be converted into a centre for arts and crafts and run by Arnault’s LVMH company. The 15,100 sq. m museum is near the Fondation Louis Vuitton building, Arnault’s museum for Modern and contemporary art which opened in 2014.

LVMH will pay the City of Paris, which owns the building, €150,000 annually for a 50-year lease, according to the newspaper. The Canadian architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Fondation Louis Vuitton building, will refurbish the former ethnology museum, which closed in 2005. The building will house a traditional crafts area and workshops, along with new exhibition display spaces; a restaurant will be built on the top floor.

A spokeswoman for Arnault declined to comment. A formal announcement by Arnault and President François Hollande is due to be made today according to the City of Paris website.

UPDATE: A statement issued by the French Ministry of Culture gave further details regarding the museum project. The new centre, which is due to open in 2020, will be named La Maison LVMH/Arts, Talents, Patrimoine. It will house a 2,000-seat events space and an academy of craft, encompassing an archive. Along with the €150,000 annual fee, the city will also receive between 2% and 10% of turnover from commercial activities such as concerts and shows. The heirs of the museum's architect, Jean Dubuisson, including his grandson are working closely with Gehry on the refurbishment.