PARIS – French culture and American convenience will come together in December — thanks to plans by the McDonald's restaurant chain to hang its shingle in the shadow of the Louvre.
McDonald's is delighted at the prospect of feeding hungry culture vultures. But not everyone is happy about mixing high art and fast food.
The McDonald's will be installed in the food court of the underground mall adjoining the museum, known as the Carrousel du Louvre, as the fast food chain fetes its 30th anniversary in France, McDonald's France said.
The pairing could serve the interests of both. The Louvre is the world's most visited museum; France is McDonald's top market outside the United States.
In France and elsewhere, McDonald's is emblematic of U.S.-driven globalization and the homogenization of cultures. However, the fast food chain's chief executive, Jim Skinner, said in an interview published Monday that the reason McDonald's is such a hit in France, where it has over 1,000 outlets, is that "we are perceived as a French enterprise."
The McDonald's on the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue is the most profitable in the world, he said. The interview was published in the economic daily Les Echos.
The Louvre refused comment on the expected arrival of its new neighbor. Spokeswoman Aggy Lerolle said only that it is not up to the museum veto McDonald's arrival since the Carrousel is run by a private company rather than the state-run museum.
However, some French are indignant about mixing French fries and art treasures in the backyard of the former palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
The Web site louvrepourtous.fr, which is aimed at keeping museum visitors informed, is among those whose hackles have been raised at the coming of McDonald's, even in a food court where a variety of restaurants offering cuisines of the world are present.
"Rendezvous in December for a Mona Lisa Extra Value Menu," it wrote, contending that the Louvre could have, and should have, put its foot down.
Some saw McDonald's taste for art coming long ago. In January 2007, the culture wing of the large CFDT union decried what it said was the "Disleylandization" of French culture, claiming the state is looking to turn museums into theme parks. It cited plans for the so-called desert Louvre, to open in 2013 in the United Arab Emirates, and the arrival of a Starbucks coffee house near the Louvre.
"When will McDonald's set up shop?" the union asked, perhaps more presciently than it wished.
McDonald's says no date has been set for its opening at the Carrousel du Louvre.
European art and what passes for American cuisine have crossed paths before. The former chief of Italy's McDonald's chain, Mario Resca, now supervises that country's chain of illustrious museums.