Is it time to take down the Mona Lisa?
Love for Louvre
In the show downstairs, four of the Louvre’s five paintings by the least productive of Renaissance masters have been relocated. Upstairs, where da Vinci’s most famous work remains, is still a fiasco.
Masterpiece, inside and out
It is the most popular museum in the world. In 2018, a record 10 million visitors, three-quarters of them foreign tourists, besieged the joint: up 25% on the previous year, and more than triple the attendance of the Centre Pompidou or the Musée d’Orsay.
The Louvre is suffocating
Relocated to the Richelieu painting wing, the Mona Lisa reduced the museum’s Flemish collection into wallpaper for a cattle pen, where guards shooed along irritated, sweaty selfie-snappers who’d endured a half-hour line. The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days.
Mona Lisa smile? Not so much
Now, you must line up in TSA-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just 2 1/2 feet tall, is too far for looking and way too far for a good selfie.
The Louvre does not have an overcrowding problem per se. It has a Mona Lisa problem. No other iconic painting — not Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” at the Uffizi in Florence, not Klimt’s “Kiss” at the Belvedere in Vienna, not “Starry Night” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York — comes anywhere close to monopolizing its institution like she does. And if tourist numbers continue to rise, if last year’s 10 million visitors become next year’s 11 or 12, the place is going to crack.
Security hazard or piece of art?
No work of art should make people miserable. Then let them rediscover the Louvre as a museum.