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Posted by
4227 posts

Read the article earlier today; the idea of a separate pavilion is excellent. A bit like the waterlilies in the Orangerie, or the Last Supper in Milan. In the meantime, I haven't been to the Louvre in over five years despite living in the city... Mandatory bookings are extremely impractical when you don't otherwise need to plan a trip.

Posted by
5774 posts

What a thoroughly depressing article.

I can't help wondering how much of the problem (both here in this specific case, and with overtourism generally) is driven just by one thing: the apparent insatiable drive for "selfies." Not kidding.

Posted by
3083 posts

Separate pavilion is a good idea. And maybe a conveyor belt, like the crown jewels at London Tower. Want to linger? Stinks to be you.

Posted by
6036 posts

After you cut through the writers general attitude of Art not being for the Plebeians, it is a valid point that the issue comes down to crowd management, something that is not handled very well at the moment, or in the past.

The idea of a separate pavilion is spot on, move the masses to a facility designed to handle the volume. The idea of moving walks, similar the the Virgin of Guadeloupe, is also a good one. They could even preface the viewing, while waiting, with additional background and information, making it a full experience.

It is a shame to have to limit entries to the Louvre due to the majority of people that only enter, head to the Mona Lisa, get their picture and leave, preventing others from viewing the larger collection.

I will comment that I do not think you could compare the idea to the Lilies or the Last Supper, in both those cases, the original work was intended to be in that space and part of the structure, the Last Supper never to be seen by large numbers, and the space the Lilies is in is hardly designed for good people flow.

While the issue can be tied to over-tourism, or more properly, just more people; it is not the number of people that is important, but the plan to deal with that volume.

Posted by
1264 posts

With modern technology it must be possible to make replicas that most us couldn't distinguish from the original. If they ran off a hundred copies, these could be placed in various galleries around the world. Provided they never revealed which, if any, was the "real one", many more could see the thing and happily assume we'd ticked it off our must-see list. Some of the Mona Lisa galleries could even be put in purpose-built museums for the selfie brigade, perhaps putting a Golden Gate Bridge in the next room and a David statue in one after that.

Posted by
11978 posts

Why not move it to Disneyland Paris? They're expert at handling hordes of visitors. I'm being facetious.

It's hard for me to imagine people visit the Louvre only to see the Mona Lisa. My first visit to the Louvre I fully intended to skip Mona Lisa to avoid the crowd. I arrived early enough, with a pass, to be first in the pass line. I don't carry any bag unless I really need to so was waived through security and found myself the first patron of the day by a few minutes. I changed plans and went straight to the Mona Lisa. A Canadian couple, who were first in line with prepaid tickets, caught up to me about the time I arrived and we took pictures of each other alone with Mona Lisa. After that, I went back to my plan for the morning.

I've been back to the Louvre several times but haven't gone back to the Mona Lisa room. I've never seen it crowded.

I'm not a big reservation person. I don't know if I'll return to the Louvre if I have to plan weeks, or months, in advance?

Posted by
13731 posts

We had a previous loooooong (!!) discussion around the recent ticketing changes to the Louvre, and some of us had raised the question of moving Mona to her own residence.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/if-you-plan-to-visit-the-louvre

I can't access the article the OP linked, as it's subscription blocked, but I'm wondering if the author's visit was before or after Mona's temporary relocation and summer renovation of the Salle des États, and before or after new crowd-control systems have been implemented? It's early yet but I'm wondering if those systems are easing the crush?

https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/timed-ticket-mona-lisa-louvre-1670233
http://en.rfi.fr/culture/20191007-mona-lisa-returns-renovated-home-louvre-museum

Posted by
8515 posts

It’s after, Kathy, photo dated 10/24. . The crowds in front of the old gal look longer than ever. So many must be tour groups doing quick timed highlight visits of the Louvre.

A separate pavilion that could have educational IT images and sound (no reading, please) about deVinci, the period, elements of art, etc to keep people entertained while they wait in line. Second, the Mona Lisa should be moved to save the other masterpieces in the current room. All those Titians and the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese must certainly be affected in the long run by all the hot air and crowds of humans carrying bacteria, fungus and viruses.

Posted by
1104 posts

I don't get the selfie thing. I am relatively young (39) but I don't have this obsession. Do I like my picture with certain things? Yes, but I guess I don't feel the need for a picture with everything. We might go in spring 2020 on a Friday since its open late, but have no intention of seeing the Mona Lisa. Of course, my MIL and I have seen it in our lifetimes, and my husband doesn't care to see it. I am all for timed entry and other ways to control crowd flow.

Posted by
5774 posts

I can't access the article the OP linked, as it's subscription blocked...

Sneaky tip: If you're blocked, all you need to do is delete cookies from the New York Times from your browser (quick and easy, exact steps depends on your browser and OS), and then you'll get right in (at least for a little while). Caveat: Independent journalism is worth supporting, so don't make a habit of doing this, and consider subscribing if/when you have the wherewithal and interest to do so.

I'm wondering if the author's visit was before or after Mona's temporary relocation and summer renovation of the Salle des États, and before or after new crowd-control systems have been implemented? It's early yet but I'm wondering if those systems are easing the crush?

I believe the article reflects the current situation, so the crush described is the crush they're experiencing now.

Posted by
5774 posts

With modern technology it must be possible to make replicas that most us couldn't distinguish from the original.

Nick, how do we know that the one that everybody is so obsessed with seeing (and getting a picture of themselves standing in front of) actually is the original? It could easily be a copy, with the original stashed away someplace for safekeeping along with many other authentic originals. Nobody would ever know (except those in on the conspiracy).

Of course, to maintain the secrecy of such a scheme, they would still need to deal with the crowds just the same. Wouldn't it be ironic if all the fuss was over a copy... Would the crowds still come? Ah, we humans...

Posted by
13731 posts

Caveat: Independent journalism is worth supporting, so don't make a
habit of doing this, and consider subscribing if/when you have the
wherewithal and interest to do so.

LOL, I keep forgetting about the cache trick, David, so thanks for the reminder. As far as subscriptions go, we already have those for the Smithsonian, National Parks Conservation Assoc., Public Television, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and National Public Radio so we're pretty tapped out at this moment! I do, however, purchase a printed NY Times now and again, and get online news from a multitude of sources.

Thanks to you too, Bets, for filling me in on date of author's visit, although I'm unsure if he/she also took the pix? I've had a pix of my own published in a newspaper travel article that I didn't compose.

Posted by
1264 posts

David - you might be right! The barmpots who come up with conspiracy theories have certainly created a few about that painting. One is that its been a fake for years because the one recovered after it was last stolen was actually only a copy. Is seeing a fake one that everyone thinks is real better or worse than seeing the real one that everyone thinks is fake? My head is spinning.

Posted by
494 posts

I guess there are several solutions, but if limiting the crowds means limiting the income, I don't know if the French would go for it.
Here, in Amsterdam, they have several approaches depending on the museum. My favorite is NO Photography. But they do provide a "selfie wall" with reproductions (who's to know?) in the lobby. The Rijksmuseum is pretty big. They do allow photography without a flash.
I was in a museum in another city that allowed photography, but you had to pay extra. And you got to wear a big badge, which was kind of cool.
I think a separate pavilion for the Mona Lisa is a great idea. Maybe they could do a selfie wall too.

Posted by
2349 posts

I saw the Mona Lisa possibly 30 years ago. The crowds were large then. There were dozens of other monumental and stunning works - Marianne at the Barricades, all kinds of key works of French art, but all people wanted to see was this small, relatively uninteresting painting. I'll not be back.

@nick: Your idea is BRILLIANT, to Britishcize for a nonce. Even better: Randomly move the actual picture to one of other locations now and again, so that you have a legit 1:100 chance of seeing the real thing in, say, Bucharest, Monte Video, or Cleveland (OH).

Posted by
776 posts

I saw the Mona Lisa at the Met in 1963. It really isn't that great a painting compared to the Davids and Ingres etc at the Louvre. I no longer go to exhibits that allow photographs, have auto guides available and have the commentary written in English. Too many bucket list fulfilling seekers and not enough arties. The best exhibit I saw last year was the Willy Ronis right down the street in my Paris neighborhood.

Posted by
332 posts

It's interesting to hear that the traffic jam in the room has gotten so bad. I was last there three years ago and although it was an obvious pinch point for viewers, I did't think it was all that bad.
What I found amusing is that the paintings hanging on the wall behind it were far more spectacular and getting almost no attention...Titian's if I recall.
There are art objects in Europe that get undue attention, the Mona Lisa, David's junk etc... if the trends continue wise exhibit managers will learn to do a better job of crowd control.

Posted by
9930 posts

The article says:

"I went up with the crowds recently. Things were no better. Now, you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo."

I went a couple of weeks ago as well. I basically went up to the Mona Lisa gallery after the Leonardo DaVinci exhibition just to see what the refurb'd gallery looked like. I do like the new color on the walls. I did not stand in the line to get up to the front row but I thought the TSA type barriers worked better than it did before although in no way optimal. They have people bunched up in the middle of the room to zigzag up to the final walk in front of the picture instead of people blocking all along the side of the room. I also kind of agree with the joke above about Disney BUT what needs to happen is the Louvre needs to hire the Disney experts to consult on efficient people moving for the plan.

The article continues:
"In the early 1990s, with the opening of I.M. Pei’s pyramid and the expansion into the Richelieu wing, the museum’s curators actually considered relocating the Mona Lisa. They balked — on the grounds that this mid-tier Leonardo needed to be grounded among her Cinquecento brothers and sisters."

To me this is the cause of most of the traffic flow problems. You've got a long way to go from the entrance of the Denon wing, up the curved stairs following the signage or if you can figure it out, taking the back route as you approach the Winged Victory. I agree they need a separate pavilion OR locate it on some ground floor area that provides easy access and departure.

I'm still bummed that the current admission situation to the Louvre does not allow for repeat visits. I do much better in this huge museum to make several visits of shorter duration than trying to make a marathon visit.

Posted by
13731 posts

I'm still bummed that the current admission situation to the Louvre
does not allow for repeat visits.

Me too, Pam! We'd made very good use of our 6-day museum pass back when it allowed unlimited visits, and thought we'd buy it again on the next trip. 1 long and 2 short trips to the Louvre alone made a large chunk of the pass price worth the $. It's too vast and important a museum to try and cover on a single visit.

Posted by
3356 posts

The first & only time saw the Mona Lisa in person was nearly 20 years ago; it wasn't that crowded in that gallery but the painting was encased in thick plastic making it hard to enjoy. Thus I've never understood the manic crowds to see a painting through thick plastic.

So, for me, wherever they put it, why bother?

Posted by
268 posts

...maybe a conveyor belt, like the crown jewels at London Tower.

I was just thinking the exact same thing! Having recently viewed the Crown Jewels on the moving sidewalk, I thought what an excellent idea that was. Everyone gets an equal chance to see the exhibit without people crowding around for photo ops and blocking the view for others (short person here!). As for the Mona Lisa, I honestly don’t care if I never see it again. It’s one of those paintings that is mostly just famous for being famous, there are many more beautiful paintings in the Louvre (and in the Musée d’Orsay) that I’d rather look at without fighting crowds.

Posted by
8515 posts

Back when I was young and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, she just hung on a wall with other paintings and was just one of many. No crowds, no separate enclosure in the old days. But now in our celebrity-driven world, she's taken on Kardashian status.

But how is this different from seeing the Great Wall if you go to China. It's a wall-fence, but nobody skips it.

Posted by
1878 posts

The popularity of the Mona Lisa is based upon the cult of celebrity more than anything. People want to see her because she's so famous. She's famous because so many people want to see her.

I don’t think the Louvre is the best art museum in Paris, much less all of Europe. My vote would go to the Musee d’Orsay for best in Paris. The concentration of excellence there is hard to match. I cannot visit Paris without going to this museum. I do want to give the Louvre a fresh look with my more knowledgeable eyes though. Last visit was a rushed one in 2003.

The Prado, Uffizi, and the Vatican Museums would rate higher for me that the Louvre as well. Unfortunately the lattermost of those is a whole museum that like the Mona Lisa has been largely spoiled by its own popularity.

Sometimes I think they let it be a bad experience because it reinforces how great it must be. Kind of like a hazing ritual, if you endure it the psychology of self perception convinces you must really value being in that club.

Posted by
268 posts

I’ve spent (cumulatively, over several visits) nearly a year in France, and I’ve seen many beautiful sights, landscapes, monuments, and works of art which have moved me to tears. The Mona Lisa isn’t one of them - not even close. I first saw it 40 years ago before it was as hyped as it is now, it was just hanging on the wall like any other painting at that time (maybe 10-12 people gathered around, not a hundred) and I didn’t think much of it other than, “Wow, there is the famous Mona Lisa.” If it hadn’t been a famous painting, I would have looked at it and kept on going without making any special note of it at all.

Yet, I’ve spent 20 minutes standing in front of a painting by Claude Joseph Vernet (also in the Louvre) that simply captivated me, and no one else so much as stopped to look at it. It’s a shame that people get all hyped up about what they think they’re “supposed” to like rather than just enjoying the unexpectedly beautiful painting that speaks to them on a personal level. You don’t have to be an art critic to see what is beautiful, it truly is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by
16941 posts

If you didn't get a selfie with that Claude Joseph Vernet, you weren't really there.

Posted by
268 posts

If you didn't get a selfie with that Claude Joseph Vernet, you weren't
really there.

Ha, ha! As a matter of fact I did take a photo of the Vernet (I’m not the “selfie”generation) and when I got home I ordered a canvas print of the painting which I had framed and hung over my fireplace (where most folks put their flat screen TV. Lol)

Little anecdote on the side....about a week ago I was in a village called Uzes which is near Avignon, where Vernet was born, and I wandered into a little antique shop near the town square. There, smack dab in the middle of this shop, was a seascape signed by none other than C.J. Vernet. I asked the proprietor if it was an ORIGINAL Vernet, and he gave me the Gallic shrug, “But of course.”

It didn’t have a price tag that I could see, but I was still agog at finding an original Vernet painting in this little shop in this little village where just anybody could presumably buy it and take it home!

Posted by
852 posts

There was a fun Washington Post article as a follow up to the NYT article that highlighted suggestions from the absurd to the more practical. I kind of think there should be a pavilion of 20 replicas for the sole purpose of snapping selfies after one has visited the stand alone pavilion with no photography allowed of the real Mona Lisa. Charge the same as you would for a visit to the Louvre, and if folks then want to enter the Louvre on the same ticket, then by all means. It may take away the long lines for the actual museum.

Posted by
5648 posts

How about if the Louvre loaned out the painting to a new art museum in Antarctica? Might limit the throngs, and could boost tourism to a new spot of the planet - except for those who are already there taking selfies with penguins?

Posted by
5774 posts

Antarctica says, "Gee, thanks a lot for that."

Posted by
320 posts

I was in Krakow recently and stopped in to see Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine, which had no crowds (I was alone for about 5 minutes) if you really want to spend time with a Leonardo. The usual museum its held in is being renovated so it's at another museum in its own room with no photos allowed, and they did what Amsterdam does. Right outside that room was a "Selfie" sign and arrow directing people towards a copy for personal photos. I took a photo of the selfie arrow (no actual selfie) because I thought it was such a good idea.

The Louvre would have to put Mona Lisa in its own space with guards yelling at people to make this work, but it might help. I was there about 10 years ago and didn't bother to get too close because of the crowds. Guess I should have tried if they've gotten even worse.

Posted by
10 posts

My husband and friends and I skipped going inside the Louvre because of the crowds with the Mona Lisa.

The outside is quite beautiful and I have had a fascination with IM Pei for some time.