Louvre museum reopens after 16-week virus shutdown

Media people, wearing protective face masks, stand in front of the painting ‘Mona Lisa’ (La Joconde) by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Louvre museum in Paris as the museum prepares to reopen its doors to the public, June 23, 2020. — Reuters pic
Media people, wearing protective face masks, stand in front of the painting ‘Mona Lisa’ (La Joconde) by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Louvre museum in Paris as the museum prepares to reopen its doors to the public, June 23, 2020. — Reuters pic

PARIS, July 6 — The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, reopens after its coronavirus closure today, but with nearly a third of its galleries still shut.

The vast former palace of France’s kings has lost more than €40 million (RM193 million) in ticket sales during the near-four-month lockdown, and director Jean-Luc Martinez admitted it could have a few more lean years ahead as the world adapts to the virus.

Although most of the museum’s most popular draws, like the “Mona Lisa” and its vast antiquities collection will be accessible, other galleries where social distancing is more difficult will remain closed.

Nor will there be any crowding in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece for a selfie, with visitors warned that they will have to stick to standing on well-distanced spots marked on the floor.

To avoid bottlenecks, arrows will guide visitors through the labyrinth of galleries, with doubling back banned, the museum said.

Some 70 per cent of the Louvre’s 9.6 million visitors last year were from overseas, and with tourism at a standstill, Martinez told AFP that numbers could drop sharply.

“We are losing 80 per cent of our public,” he said.

“We are going to be at best 20 to 30 per cent down on last summer — between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day,” he estimated.

The museum hopes to attract more French visitors to fill the gap as it embarks on a campaign to shake off its elitist image before the Paris Olympics in four years’ time.

Martinez, who comes from a working-class background, said he wanted to build on the outreach success of the Louvre’s outpost museum in Lens, a poor former mining town in northern France.

He said sometimes the Louvre can “intimidate” certain demographics and the museum needs to reassure people that its collections are also for them with improved presentation, labelling and curation. — AFP               

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