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Why is the Louvre auctioning off its hedges?

8 February 2021

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

It’s your chance to buy a branch of the Louvre. No, not the European paintings collection or the Egyptian treasures, but – in 14 lots offered on the Drouot Digital website this week –  a batch of boxwood plants from the Jardin de l’Infante, a garden tucked against the south-eastern corner of the Louvre, between the Sully Wing and the River Seine. Each lot offers you 60–70 Sempervirens boxwoods, ‘representing a square of their current arrangement in the garden’, and comes with a starting price of €800. So if you’re the lucky bidder – and if nobody else is on the market for some second-hand hedges – you could basically recreate the entire garden for a little over €11,000.

What might pare back your enthusiasm is that visits to inspect the plants are not permitted (they are sold ‘in a very good state of conservation’), and that only three mornings in February have been set aside for you to collect your shrubs from the Louvre. Not so attainable for any outre-mer horticulturalist out there, then, given the current travel restrictions around the world. And in the meantime, your correspondent is confused by proposed storage facilities: ‘[The plants] will be stored online and in batches under a mulch’. Stored online? What in, some kind of gigabyte greenhouse? (Or perhaps something was lost in translation and, erm, they’ll be stored in a line.)

The sale has planted a seed of discontent on social media, where Dider Rykner of La Tribune de l’Art has described the Louvre as ‘unhinged’ (dingue) and suggested that healthy boxwoods would be better left in place or, at worst, donated to a château from which box hedges have been lost.

At least the museum is selling its boxwood hedges, thinks Rakewell, and not its boxwood carvings. And let’s hope that after the auction it puts its new hedge fund to good use.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

Lead image: used under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 3.0)