I recently went to Louvre. It’s been a while since my last visit but some things haven’t changed: incredible being amidst so many fine works, from Egyptian antiquities to mythical mainstays, and, ridiculously filled with tourists (typical for August). If you’ve ever been there, you know that the Louvre is large enough to have a completely different experience with every visit. We took advantage of the “Another Louvre” tour this time, which exposed us to rooms I’ve never seen and probably otherwise wouldn’t have. It also allowed us to think about and see works of art differently alongside the running dialogue from our overly enthusiastic yet utterly charming Parisian guide.
But some things have changed: the Mona Lisa has been moved for the time being, placed in the museum’s Galerie Médicis until October (read the NY Times report here). This has a twofold effect of utter confusion and a situation that we now affectionately refer to as”Mosh pit Mona”.
Confusion. The maps haven’t been updated so you head over the to Denon wing only to realize you’re meant to be waiting to enter the Richelieu wing. This means an extra round of waiting to board the escalator up to Richelieu, unless you happen to already be on the mezzanine level from (thinking about) eating at the restaurant or hall cafe up there. In that case, you can just swing into the mezz level ticket gate wing entrance and begin your experience.
Mosh pit. After winding through a back and forth queue that rivals the customs line at ATL Hartsfield-Jackson, a rectangular area is set up just in front of Mona into where a group of general public members are permitted to advance in order to get the “closest look”. This amounts to a small hoard of folks elbowing towards front and center while guards hoot and howl about staying back, stopping flash photography, and keeping it moving. After watching the mosh pit experience unfold for a while on ahead, I requested to be forwarded to the end of the queue. Ironically, in doing so we got closer to Mona than any of the other viewers as we were walked right in front of her. I took loads of pics with my minds eye because our usher made us promise we wouldn’t do so physically. But I took pictures from the side and above the crowd that captured just what I needed.
Mona has always been popular. This is next level. It’s art as celebrity and the plebeians just want to be close to her. No one is looking at the painting. Ten seconds isn’t enough time to parse brush strokes. There’s no chance to move forward and backward to work on deciding if there’s a grimace or a smile. But maybe most poignantly, the situation has me wondering about how to handle the world’s most popular paintings.
Maybe the Louvre should offer multi visit tickets. Who has time for that in their travel schedule? What about limiting visits to one wing on any given day? But, I’m here to see the Mona Lisa! Should visits with Mona be scheduled, timed, and in small groups? We’re going to lose money that way.
It’s their museum and their problem, most assuredly. But from my psychological perspective, there are too many works, too many people, and not enough time to process all of the art in the Louvre on any given day. It’s simply a matter of attention overload. Like losing the ability to notice if a gorilla walks by, it’s likely few if any persons were able to process what Mona is wearing. And, what about her hands: are they in the painting? Many of you reading this now will have to scroll up to find out. At least cameras allow for zooming in and longer looks later. But it is alarming to see so many people willing to wait in line to take a snap foregoing their right to simply look longingly.
As for the regular works adorning the Medici Gallery: absolutely incredible but I don’t think many took the time to enjoy them while moving through the queue.
Lest this post is leaving you too stuck with my complainey airs, it still was a wonderful trip to Paris, the Louvre, and everywhere else Europe. More to come– a bientot!