The Gioconda is too famous and doesn't deserve the crowd it gets? Maybe. Sounds like a subjective judgement.
People are left disappointed? Maybe. But anyone who does a 10 second search for "is mona lisa worth seeing" should already be aware of that. If they still choose to do that, why should we stop them? (or force them into an overly commercialized pen that deprives a piece of art of its dignity)
By all means, the Louvre should optimize the queuing experience. But as the author admitted, the Louvre doens't have a space capacity issue. And in my books anything that gets more people into a museum of any sort is a good thing.
Whether or not most of the Louvre visitors are there only for Mona Lisa, most will want to at least see it, whereas the rest of the museum is diverse enough to never be too crowded.
Moving that painting elsewhere would probably make it an immensely better experience for visitors who aren't coming for it. The entrance queues would not be that long, and past these queues, as long as you avoid that room the museum is more than large enough not to be crowded.
So let those who want to see the painting see it, and let those who want to the see the rest of the museum see it. People can do both of course, but there's no need to ask people who just want to see Mona Lisa to navigate the museum.
Move it to a separate room, install turnstiles that limit the amount of people in the room to something reasonable, and it will be a better experience for everyone. Even the people who are only there to take a picture of the Mona Lisa will be able to do it faster.
Many other museums seem better at limiting the amount of people near some attraction. To see Da Vinci's next most famous work, The Last Supper, you purchase a ticket that corresponds to a 15-minute slot. The Bust of Nefertiti, one of the most famous antique items, is kept in a separate room of the Neues Museum, with the staff not letting people in if it gets too crowded.
From what little I've been exposed to about art management, it's also not great for the works in general to have crowds around them - aside from obvious things like people touching them, it puts an extra burden on the climate control system.
The Louvre doesn't have climate control throughout the compound. There's some sections that have it. But during August one should expect their visit to be fairly sweltering.
Another option is to charge a dynamic fee to see the painting based on crowd size.
This legacy and continuity matter to the curators and art historians who maintain the museum.
As part of the renovations, the flow of the room was redesigned to accommodate for the fact that visitors spend more time in front of the Joconde (curators mention that a visitor spends on average 50 seconds looking at La Joconde, versus 4 seconds for other paintings).
If you need to count beans for some government funding agency to justify your budget, this is a way to inflate bean count and prop up underperforming aspects. As long as it's a situation that isn't incredibly wasteful and done in good taste, I support it--though this is of course highly subjective.
If you break that number up so it's easier to see why people visit (e.g., separating the Mona Lisa), it may inadvertantly give justification to cut funding to the other aspects in many modern mindsets. Mixing the artworks up artificially inflates other works foot traffic that, I would argue, is a positive form of trickery for society (preservation and education of the arts, something important and often underfunded).
None of the big 4 supermarkets near me have milk at the back. In fact IIRC they are all in the middle of the store.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna currently has an exhibition on called Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and other Treasures, by Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf. Neither of them are museum professionals, so their choices of which objects to display and how to arrange them differ quite notably from what one might normally see in the museum, even though they're drawn from the same collection. I found it a very interesting and enjoying experience.
EDIT: I misread the dates; the exhibition has moved to Milan.
Now, knowing it's famous, one can appreciate some of the justification for it. But it still wouldn't make at least my list of favorite paintings.
I actually tend to avoid the most crowded attractions. Been to Paris several times, but never been to the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre (but the Arc de Triomphe and the Montmartre are cool places to visit).
That said, if I'm having to choose, I'm probably going to the Musee d'Orsay rather than the Louvre.
The fact is, as an artist, it's hard not to look at paintings by Picasso or Van Gogh and think, "Wow, they had such a big impact on me. I wanted to be like that."
That's part of the magic of the artist's brush — that it can so easily and effortlessly paint such a dramatic scene that you, the viewer, think you can be the same person as the artist.
As an artist, I'm very aware of how big the influence of an artist is. And as an individual, I'm extremely aware of how much an artist can influence me. That's why I'm very interested in people who can have the biggest impact on other people through their art.
"Is X worth seeing" is essentially searching for reviews of an experience.
They really need to do the grocery store thing and make you walk past everything in the museum before letting you into the Mona Lisa at the far back.
On the other hand just the fact that most people who go there to see it take pictures of it with their mobile phones means that they don't even go to the Louvre to see it, they just want to show others they've seen it.
When I brought in my teenager niece, 16, she did not know what to expect, but WANTED to see the Mona Lisa, despite my warnings it was really underwhelming, but she wanted her selfie.
And then she marveled for the rest of the day in the middle of the antiquities and learned about civilization she had not even heard the name before.
8 hours later, and one unexpected lunch in the Louvre's restaurant, we literally had to drag her out, as despite having seen so much of the museum, she still wanted to see more. Even to this day she remembers it very fondly. We did see the Mona Lisa. It's surprising how small it actually is in person. Luckily we weren't there during peak tourist season so it wasn't the chaos that the pictures in the article depict.
My daughter went on to develop a deep love of history, and has just graduated from a top tier UK university with a Honours degree in Ancient History. Her love of museums never abated either.
If you have kids, take them to museums - it will always pay off.
Similar issues exist for major paintings across the world. Not a big problem to spend too much collective brain power on though.
I learned this the hard way when I was going to meet a friend there. Neither of us were locals, so we wanted to choose an unambiguous place to meet. What could be more iconic than "let's meet by the David"? Hilarity ensued.
But I'm at an age and temperament, where I no longer want to idolize the rich and powerful. Its just a shame that such talent went to aggrandize rich white folk with life-and-death power over millions, because of an accident of birth.
Here's a powerful painting, worth a long look:
You see how dumb it is to apply 2019 political correctness to past history?
Its revealing how much backlash my personal choice of art and whom to admire, has triggered.
And what's the point of pointing out that he was white? Almost everyone in France was back then. You're projecting modern American politics back into an era in history that was very different. As a Corsican, Napoleon actually had to deal with a fair bit of prejudice.
Not exactly nothing. It is interesting to muse about a nobody becoming the Emperor of the French, I'll grant that.
How did the nothing son of a poor man end up in Royal Academy? Who were his classmates? What social class did his classmates belong to?
"Thanks to documents proving his family's nobility, Charles Bonaparte was able to send his son Napoleon Bonaparte to one of the twelve military schools created by Louis XVI, reserved for young nobles."
Do obvious (and universal) social matters such as this really require debate?
Not one which would ever have been able to rise very high under the ancien régime. Minor, impoverished nobility from Corsica (then a backwater in France) were not in line for the throne. As a Corsican, he was barely even considered French (and spoke the language poorly when he was young). The fact that someone from such a lowly social station would be able to rise to be the head of state was astonishing. It would have been completely impossible, of course, without the Revolution, and for someone without great ability.
Napoleon wasn't a peasant, but he wasn't anywhere near the ruling social class - which is what the GP implied when they said they weren't interested in "white folk with life-and-death power over millions, because of an accident of birth." Although, in one sense, I could grant that Napoleon did come to power due to accident of birth - the accident of being born shortly before the Revolution, and perfectly the right age to rise through the ranks of the military during the Revolution, and then take power just as the Directorate was becoming unpopular. If he had been born 10 years earlier or later, that would have been impossible. But nevertheless, without also being possibly the greatest general in history and extremely charismatic, he wouldn't have come to power.
But sans his education, exposure to an exclusive social tier, and thus his subsequent study at École Militaire, and finally being commissioned as an officer, he would not have had the opportunity to shine.
So the point is, if he were indeed a "nothing", regardless of his substantial qualities, you and I would not be discussing him couple hundred years later on hacker news.
> what the GP implied
I am very clearly focused on the notion of "nothing". Per my reading of history, almost all of the major spiritual and secular figures in history, regardless of period or locale, belonged to (or were closely attached) to the upper classes.
You're taking "nothing" very literally. My point was that he was not born into the crown, and that based on his birth, he could never have hoped to wield much of any political power, had it not been for the Revolution.
> an exclusive social tier
It wasn't nearly as exclusive as you're making it out to be. There were hundreds of thousands of people with higher social rank than Napoleon.
> his subsequent study at École Militaire, and finally being commissioned as an officer, he would not have had the opportunity to shine
That's probably true, but not because studying at the military academy at Brienne was anything particularly prestigious. It's because the Republic was in desperate need of competent officers and under extreme military pressure, so people from fairly low social stations and with little military training were being put in command of significant forces. Lots of people from outside the ruling class rose to high stations during this time. Napoleon was simply the most extreme example, because of the seeming military miracles he pulled off and a great deal of political shrewdness.
What you're arguing is a bit like saying that Albert Einstein was just lucky to be born to a family that could afford tutors. But being born to decent circumstances were just the beginning, and the vast majority of people born to those circumstances go nowhere near as far as Einstein did. Napoleon wouldn't have been who he was had he been born a serf. But he was also probably the greatest military mind in history, and without that we wouldn't be talking about him here.
> almost all of the major spiritual and secular figures in history, regardless of period or locale, belonged to (or were closely attached) to the upper classes.
I don't think that's true at all of the era we're discussing. The people who rose to prominence in France during the Revolution tended to be decidedly middle-class: lawyers, penniless minor nobility, journalists, army engineers, minor clergy, and so on.
> Carlo Buonaparte died on 24 February 1785, and, due to his frivolous spending, left his surviving wife and eight children penniless.
Rich folk like them, of course, deserve worship because of what they are (better than everybody else).
So what? The accident that some folk got to run roughshod over everybody else is quite an un-American viewpoint (we abolished the monarchy here). I understand if others still ascribe to these antique notions. I just have decided, after decades of being drenched in rich-and-powerful hero-worship in media and art, that I would opt out.
Keep all the superior feelings to yourself, thank you. I have none. Kind of my whole point.
I get your feeling, but that's a mistake to placate it on that painting. Napoleon probably abolished more monarchies than anyone else in Europe.
The moment it captures is when Napoleon (who took power, he was not born into it) broke the supremacy of the church over European leaders. A definite moment for secularism.
It does mimic the crowning ceremony of kings, but it actually breaks the supremacy of the church.
All this angst over what I choose to admire and study is curious. A powerful emotion was triggered by my decision, I can see that. It says more about the trolls than about me, for sure.
It's not actually because the painting is such a tremendous masterpiece. In 1911 it was was largely unknown.
But that year it was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia. The theft and subsequent recovery two years later received a lot of media attention around the world.
Leading to the current immense popularity.
Otherwise... yes. The hordes of tourists amassing before the Mona Lisa, who then stare at the painting for two or three minutes while trying to get a good look through the amassed crowd, is not a benefit for anyone. Except for the ticket revenue.
But then again, Louvre is huge, so it really doesn't matter much. You really don't notice when exploring other parts.
"Anyone wishing to see the degree to which art could imitate nature could readily perceive this from the head; since therein are counterfeited all those minutenesses that with subtlety are able to be painted: seeing that the eyes had that lustre and moistness which are always seen in the living creature, and around them were the lashes and all those rosy and pearly tints that demand the greatest delicacy of execution. The eyebrows, through his having shown the manner in which the hairs spring from the flesh, here more close and here more scanty, and curve according to the pores of the flesh, could not be more natural. The nose, with its beautiful nostrils, rosy and tender, appeared to be alive. The mouth with its opening, and with its ends united by the red of the lips to the flesh-tints of the face, seemed, in truth, to be not colours but flesh. In the pit of the throat, if one gazed upon it intently, could be seen the beating of the pulse: and indeed it may be said that it was painted in such a manner as to make every brave artificer, be he who he may, tremble and lose courage. He employed also this device: Mona Lisa being very beautiful, while he was painting her portrait, he retained those who played or sang, and continually jested, who would make her to remain merry, in order to take away that melancholy which painters are often wont to give to their portraits. And in this work of Leonardo there was a smile so pleasing, that it was a thing more divine than human to behold, and it was held to be something marvelous, in that it was not other than alive."
This is quite interesting, because (currently at least) she doesn't have eyebrows!
While the background of Prado’s copy was blacked out in the 1700s prior to its restoration this past decade, the foreground was largely untouched.
The Prado one in Madrid is much better in my opinion.
Well, screw them? The Louvre museum is a pure marvel content-wise with 40k objects showing what is Culture from prehistory to today, right in the center of Paris, over 70k square meters.
If people go only there to see Mona Lisa instead of checking the Sculpture department too after having read about it online, they kinda deserve to take a shitty selfie and complain about the size of the La Gioconda instead of getting the pleasure of visiting a gigantic place offering pieces of art made over many millennia.
Taking down the Mona Lisa isn't the answer to that. The answer is to give the public a reason to look at the pieces leading up to it, and the pieces around it. Tours are one way to get that, but explanatory placards could do it. Take the visitors through a story, any story. Chronological, by artist, by subject, by method of acquisition -- any is better than just "a bunch of paintings on walls". The latter may appeal to people who have the experience to tell their own stories, but the general public doesn't learn anything from the museums except "I don't know why that piece is so famous".
The Musee d'Orsay across the river does exactly that. It's a more modern museum, built around telling stories rather than displaying prizes. The Louvre is a relic of the power of French kings and emperors and the subsequent attempts to share their acquisitions with the public. It's even more glaring with the historic objects, which are relics of colonialism rather than telling the stories of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and other cultures who produced them.
Every 90 minutes of basic cable TV you wait through 30 minutes of ads, and you don't get to say you saw the Mona Lisa for your trouble.
Yeah, but the experience would also be much more pleasant for the museum's other patrons if the Mona Lisa were elsewhere. And the Louvre would make more money by opening a whole new location with a massive visitor count guaranteed, although they would have a significant investment to recoup. Moving the painting helps all involved.
I visited Louvre in September just before the painting moved. Queues were several floors long, complete with videographers following brides around to get the right shot, others having gimballed footage of every moment.
The pure embarrassment to see the line finally break after two hours of queuing to rush forward, to gain that extra half metre closer, and snap snap snap... no interest in looking at the painting but a torrent of pictures/video with quick reviews to improve shots before being told NO MORE by an exasperated staffer to then rinse and repeat.
Do you actually see the Mona Lisa if there is no stabilised moody video of you pondering to prove it?
Or well, the simpler explanation is a picture will help you remember the place and the associated emotions, but a video is even more immersive.
* The ML (Mona Lisa) is put in its own room, surrounded by a bunch of not very remarkable paintings that would not lose out to being ignored by tourists focusing on the Mona Lisa.
* You can get to the ML fairly efficiently from the main entrance. If that is all you want to see, it's not a very big problem because:
* The Louvre is VAST. 99.99% of it is not the ML and probably around 90% of it does not suffer from being in the same very, very large building as the ML. You can have a very fulfilling visit to the Louvre and never get anywhere near the thing (or the queues leading up to it).
Also, the common trope that the ML is not actually an interesting painting is nonsense as well. It's a perfectly charming little painting and if you make sure you enter the museum early enough you can get close enough to enjoy it.
My 2 cents. That hinge on the Louvre not having significantly changed things for the worse recently.
From the article.
I doubt they have now:
* Surrounded the ML with other masterpieces
* Placed it in a room that’s only accessible by going through each other room in the Louvre and significantly disturbing the people that want to view the other masterpieces on display
Unless, of course, they made the Louvre smaller.
The premise of he article is just wrong. If you must view the Mona Lisa, a very pretty picture, btw, you can. Just come early. If you want to see something else in the Louvre - and there is plenty of choice - you can as well.
Anyway, once you look at the Mona Lisa and are annoyed by the crowds, a literally 180 and you're faced with amazing artwork that, because everyone in that room is there to see the Mona Lisa, you can look at unmolested.
(at least when I there last, it may have been moved / rearranged).
If you visit the Louvre, just stay out of the room the Mona Lisa is in.
It is also in better condition.
It's frustrating that this painting dominates the salle des états.
Last time I was there in 2004 (the pre-selfie days) I sat in front of the stunning Ghirlandaio they have there for a long time. (He taught Michelangelo how to paint.)
Now if I went today, I don't think I could even get in front of it.
I'd just like to point out how ridiculous of a request it is to ask a gallery to take down the piece it is best known for, and which in addition is a source of national pride.
Not only is it not in the best interest of the Louvre to take it down, nor is it for the city of Paris or the country of France.
The article argues that this would be better for everyone: the art enthusiasts who want to enjoy the museum and the box-tickers who are only there to see its most famous attraction, as well as being financially viable.
Not addressed is the argument that some people might come for the Mona Lisa and stay for the rest of the museum, and gain a better appreciation of art that way. The author likely thinks that doesn't happen or isn't important.
There's nothing about it that's better in person than looking at a high res picture of it.
The sculptures at the Louvre, however are astounding. You can't see just how good the artistic interpretation of musculature and sense of motion the statues have from photos, because (a bit obvious in retrospect) 2D photos don't represent 3D lights and shadows well.
The Venus is excellent, but the bronze garden elsewhere in Paris with The Thinker (not my favorite at the garden either) is something you can just feel.
It's only 30" by 21".
And again, you can get within a foot of the 83" tall Venus.
You can touch the glass in front of the starry night at the MoMA, you can actually see the delicate brushwork.
Mona, not so much.
My own viewing of Mona Lisa left me a little underwhelmed as well, though i have always found sculpture attracts me more than paintings. To each his own.
And recently I have seen the "other" Mona Lisa at Madrid's Prado; I like it a lot better https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa_(Prado%27s_version)
This is an elitist attitude. "I don't think these people are appreciating art properly, therefore let's take it away from them."
On the other had there is that strange mental phenomenon that if I take a picture of something then I tend not to remember it very well. Something in my brain must decide that it does not need to store information that is available on hand. So I try not to do it too much.
I guess I don't understand that, either, but only in the weak, "there's no accounting for taste" way that I don't understand how some people want whipped cream on their pie or 3D in their movies.
I guess if you enjoy photography maybe, but I see a lot of people with just their cell phone. And it's not like you can take your time with the picture, you have to compete with everyone else in the room.
> pictures one takes oneself are more valuable than the ones you can go find on the Internet
I guess the value implied is sentimental? If anything I imagine that would bring back horrible memories of being stuck in a room packed with people trying to take pictures of a painting. But hey maybe that's why most people leave disappointed.
most folks wouldn't otherwise get anything more out of seeing the mona lisa in person than from a (high-res) photo. maybe there's some value in seeing it in context, but an art book is likely more informative and thought-provoking, since it can delve deeper into why one should care in the first place.
I don't think anyone is saying it should be closed. But it's not an unreasonable argument to say that it could be exhibited better. (Someone told me there was some recent rearrangement of galleries so I'm not sure what the current layout is exactly.)
That sort of complete lack of self awareness and hypocrisy is distressing and unfortunately repeatably precedented.
Would they dare write the same thing for an artifact in an African country museum or a Native American one?
No, because then the arrogance would be clearly evident, and they'd be called a bigot immediately. Well, they should know that western country's museums are not their business either....
Whether the Mona Lisa is worth it, is another thing. He can restrict the suggestions to potential visitors to opt for something else...
And that is all this is, just the views and opinions of a single person. It's not some foreign nation state trying to dictate what another country should be doing.
This is not art criticism, this is telling another country what to do with the art in their museums...
I didn't say it was, but as an art critic he's more than sufficiently qualified to share his opinions on art galleries around the world. He visits art galleries for a living. He has plenty of credibility to make such a critique and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the fact he's American or writing for an American paper.
It's amazing what some people choose to get offended by. Or how people seek out mini power-trips by rejecting a diversity of ideas, pushing the idea only people born in some place or with certain attributes can be allowed to critique things. Or at worst the inherent xenophobia of dismissing foreigners opinions because they weren't born in the same country of the thing they are critiquing (which France and the french are notorious for, even here in Canada).
So like an author for NYT getting caught up by what a French museum has on display?
>Or at worst the inherent xenophobia of dismissing foreigners opinions because they weren't born in the same country of the thing they are critiquing
I didn't know not MYOB was "xenophobia".
Let me see you criticize black or Native American culture now, and calling them "xenophobic" if they don't take lightly to your suggestions. Or is that accusation confined to the French?
Probably just needed to fill the column and she is mad they had to study the Mona Lisa in college for their fine arts credit.
For those others, examine the entirety of the rest of the museum, and leave that spectacle behind. It's not a problem to do so.
> Some 80 percent of visitors, according to the Louvre’s research, are here for the Mona Lisa — and most of them leave unhappy.
This is a great win. These 80% have become educated.
Yeah! We already live in digital era, so:
“Share Lenna 97 JPG!”
$ wget http://www.ee.cityu.edu.hk/~lmpo/lenna/len_std.jpg