Paris Love Locks Sold for Charity

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This is for all the lovers out there—at least for those who attached locks to Paris bridges over the Seine and for those who are disappointed that love locks, as their innocently known, have been banned from the city center.

On May 13, during an auction conducted at the official pawn shop of the City of Paris, you can purchase some of the removed locks. Owning a kitsch bunch of rejected love locks may not be as significant as having a piece of the Berlin Wall but memorable in its own way.

Symbols of love, romance, I-was-here, and if-you’re-going-to-do-it-then-so-am-I, the locks soon lost their 2010 charm as it became clear that they were a form of graffiti whose collective weight was a safety hazard for the railings and the bridges on which they were hooked. They grew like cancer, hundreds of thousands of them, according to the city’s estimate, until 2014 when it became necessary to remove them.

Love locks on the Pont de l'Archevêché, Paris 2011 (c) Joe Wilkins 2011
Love locks on the Pont de l’Archevêché, Paris, 2011 (c) Joe Wilkins.

Removal began in the fall of that year from the Pont des Arts, the bridge between the Louvre and the Institut de France, which was lock-free a year later as plexiglas panels on which locks couldn’t be attached replaced the old barrier fencing. Attention then turned to the bridge behind Notre Dame, the Pont de l’Archevêché, which is recently lock-free. The locks on the railing around the ledges by the statue of Henri IV on Pont Neuf are slated next for removal.

The auction will take place at 3:15PM on May 13 at the Crédit Municipal de Paris, a financial institution in the Marais that primarily serves as the city’s official pawn shop. The Municipal Credit, is auctioning 165 lots of love-lock memorabilia. Most are in the form of hanging bunches of 2-28 connected locks estimated to go for 150-200€, along the 13 bridge panels estimated at 5000-8000€ and one longer panel estimated at 8000-10000€.

The public is invited to view the lots of love locks (cadenas d’amour) at the Municipal Credit office from May 10 to 13. The catalogue can be seen here.

Louis XVI ordered the creation of a pawn shop in the capital in December 1777, at a time when usury interest rates were about 120% per year, as a way of establishing healthier lending practices. The Mont-de-Piété, as it was then called, opened two months later. It is still located at the same address, 55 rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the 4th arrondissement.

Love locks on the Pont des Arts, Paris, 2011. (c) Joe Wilkins.
Love locks on the Pont des Arts, Paris, 2011. (c) Joe Wilkins.

Profits from the sale of the locks will go to three charities in Paris that focus on aid for migrants and refugees:

  • Solipam, which stands for Solidarité Paris Maman, a network that coordinates the actions of medical and social professionals for the care of pregnant migrants and refugees in situations of great poverty until up to the third month after their child’s birth.
  • Emmaüs Solidarité, a secular association that manages two centers where migrants benefit from lodging, daily meals, information about their rights, integrated healthcare, classes for children, and sporting and cultural opportunities for adults.
  • Armée de Salut, the Salvation Army, an association that fights against all forms of exclusion and for integration into society, including the welcoming of migrants and refugee.

Post-note: The auction ended up raising 250,000 euros, with lots going for much higher than the estimates noted above. This was, after all, a charity auction.

Feeling nostalgic for love locks? See this France Revisited song video of 2012.

© 2017, Gary Lee Kraut


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