Salon de la Mort 1

(A television journalist speaks to camera as she tests a coffin on show at the 'Salon de la Mort' -- Salon of Death -- in Paris April 7, 2011/Charles Platiau)

“Care to try out the coffin?” Surprised but intrigued, the young man lays himself down on the ivory satin fabric and holds his breath as the heavy lid closes over him. At the Salon of Death, everything is permitted.

For the first time in Paris, death is the star at a free exhibition taking place underneath the famed Louvre museum.

“It’s good to talk about death in the heart of the capital, because we’re a society pretty much based on consumption and leisure,” said Jean-Paul Soltani, who makes funerary monuments in the northwestern region of Brittany. “And here, we’re right next to the museum where they’ve got pharoahs’ tombs!”

Funeral parlors, organ donation societies, embalming techniques, and lots and lots of marble — it’s all on display at the Salon of Death, in a surprisingly clinical atmosphere. Organizers hope some 25,000 visitors will stroll through the Salon to admire the rows upon rows of biodegradable coffins or the luxurious funerary urns.