We had illustrated several of the articles on the Hôtel de la Marine with a picture showing the façade of the monument bearing a large sign “To let. Very beautiful location” (ill. 1). Alas, reality is stranger than fiction : on the Budget Ministry’s website, there is in fact a notice advertisingthe long-term lease of the Gabriel building with the heading : “Hôtel de la Marine, a prestigious and exceptional building”. The French government has taken on the role of a real estate agent to rid itself of one of its most beautiful landmarks, thus selling off France’s history which the president of the Republic claims however to respect elsewhere. We have never stooped so low.
The call for tenders was published in the Journal official de l’Union européenne, and it is consternating to read. The lease will be “signed for a duration of 60, 70 or 80 years”, so there will not really be any difference between leasing it and selling it since the future of the monument will be sealed for three generations. This sounds very much like “Après moi le deluge” an apocryphal expression attributed to Louis XV. France is prostituting one of its most important monuments in the very heart of Paris.
The text  does not set down many constraints for the future tenant. It merely points out that the monument “the whole building is listed as a historical monument from the listing in 1862”. There is no mention of the historic furniture (ill. 2 and 3) (except for offering a list) and there is no obligation to preserve it in situ. At no point is the future lessee expected to guarantee entrance to the building for the public. Also, there are no restrictions as to how it may be used. The text informs the future tenant that he may consult certain documents, notably the Etude sur la valeur patrimoniale de l’immeuble réalisée par l’architecte en chef des monuments historiques [Study on the patrimonial value of the building carried out by the chief architect for historical monuments] (see article) and the minutes of the meeting of the Commission nationale des monuments historiques which has validated this study.
The call for offers on the project does not mean that those fighting this privatization of public heritage should resign themselves to give up their struggle. On the contrary . We will be writing more articles on this affair which we have every intention to follow quite closely.