Is nothing sacred anymore?
McDonald's restaurants to open at the Louvre
It is a move which has managed to get both France's art lovers and gastronomes choking on their Gitanes.
Lovers of France's two great symbols of cultural exception – its haute cuisine and fine art – are aghast at plans to open a McDonald's restaurant and McCafé in the Louvre museum next month.
America's fast food temple is celebrating its 30th anniversary in France with a coup -the opening of its 1,142nd Gallic outlet a few yards from the entrance to the country's Mecca of high art and the world's most visited museum.
The chain faces a groundswell of discontent among museum staff, many already unhappy about the Louvre lending its name and works to a multi-million pound museum project in Abu Dhabi.
"This is the last straw," said one art historian working at the Louvre, who declined to be named. "This is the pinnacle of exhausting consumerism, deficient gastronomy and very unpleasant odours in the context of a museum," he told the Daily Telegraph.
Didier Rykner, head of The Art Tribune website found the idea "shocking".
"I'm not against eating in a museum but McDonald's is hardly the height of gastronomy," he said, adding that it was a worrying mixture of art and consumerism. "Today McDonald's, tomorrow low-cost clothes shops," he said.
McDonald's confirmed that a restaurant will open next month. The Louvre confirmed it will be positioned in the underground approach to the Louvre, known as the Carrousel du Louvre.
The stonewalled gallery was opened in 1993, five years after the famous Louvre pyramid. The Carrousel's initial remit stipulated that its "commercial activities will be regulated and restricted to cultural or tourist activities".
The Louvre has the right to protest against boutiques it considers fail to meet such criteria. However, the museum told the Daily Telegraph it had agreed to a "quality" McCafé and a McDonald's in place by the end of the year, which it said was "is in line with the museum's image".
"The Louvre welcomes the fact that the entirety of visitors and customers, French or foreign, can enjoy such a rich and varied restaurant offer, whether in the museum area or gallery," the museum said in a statement.
The McDonald's would represent the "American" segment " of a new "food court", and would be situated "among (other) world cuisines and coffee shops," it wrote.
It added that the franchise owner "has taken the utmost care in ensuring the quality of the project, both in culinary and aesthetic terms".
Louvre Pour Tous, a website whose aim is to "inform and defend" museum visitors, said: "Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre museum just had to say one word to stop the whiff of French fries from wafting past the Mona Lisa's nose. He chose otherwise."
There was already an outcry last year when Starbucks opened a café perilously close to the Right bank museum's entrance. Employees and art aficionados sent management a petition in protest; the café opened regardless but was asked to provide a cultural corner of brochures and catalogues as a placatory measure.
"Starbucks was bad enough but McDonald's is worse," said the Louvre art historian.
A new ticket hall is due to be built in the next three years by the site of the new McDonald's to cope with the eight million annual visitors.
"Once this happens, the first thing visitors will likely see when they arrive are big golden arches," he said.
Many in France view "McDo" as the Trojan horse of globalisation and the scourge of local produce and long lunches.
José Bové, the mustachioed anti-GM crusader shot to fame after bulldozing a McDonald's in 1999 to protest against malbouffe (junk food).
However, even if there were a last-minute u-turn at the Louvre, statistics suggest the battle of Le Big Macs has already been lost. France has become McDonald's biggest market in the world outside of the US, according to the chain. While business in traditional brasseries and bistros is in freefall, the fast food group opened 30 new outlets last year in France and welcomed 450 million customers – up 11 per cent on the previous year.