Where art goes to die.
I hate saying this as an artist and a lover of art, but I absolutely detested the Louvre. All I could think about while shoving through the crowded halls were quotes from art critics I’ve read over the years. The idea that museums are graveyards just kept popping into my head. All of this amazing art was completely taken out of its original context and piled on top of each other like dung. Paintings were layered high and wide on each wall. Cases were crammed full of ancient artifacts, then layered themselves. The museum became a warehouse where artwork could be stored and cataloged, not appreciated. All that was left were the specters of true masterpieces that once were and would only be again if removed from that environment.
I truly was looking forward to visiting the Louvre, and I may sound harsh, but walking through that museum may have been my most depressing moment as an artist. I had to keep asking myself, what’s the point? Rooms filled to the brim with decadence and luxury made my stomach sink. It all just seemed like such a waste. I kept thinking about how many hours of work went into just one room and comparing that to the number of seconds it took for the streams of people to filter through.
To make matters worse, the Louvre map highlighted about twenty must-see works. Signs pointed you in the right direction so you wouldn’t miss what the museum deemed worthy of your time. Like horses with blinders, people herded to the likes of Winged Victory and, of course, the Mona Lisa. When I got into the room that housed the museums most prized painting I just wanted to turn around, find the closest illuminated sortie sign, and get out. Past a huge mob of cameras and shoving tourists, past a rope and security guards to contain the masses, past an open space to assure no one got close, behind a wall of semi-reflective glass, the Mona Lisa gazed back, unaffected by the frenzy she was causing. I didn’t even try to fight my way to the front. The view would have been half my reflection and half a let down. I found myself craving a book that contained an image of the Mona Lisa since seeing the painting, alive as it was meant to be, was not an option. I took pictures of the hoards of people instead of the artwork.
I will admit, there were moments when my spirit lifted a little. The fact that most of the tourists I was surrounded by didn’t realize that there were more than twenty masterpieces in the Louvre meant half a dozen or so pieces that I really love were both out of the path of the stream and not being hovered by cameras. For those, I tried oh so hard to just block out everything else and only see the painting, get inches away, and admire.
The Louvre made me appreciate other museums that make an effort to showcase the artwork housed within. And the fact that this is the largest art museum in the world gave me hope in the system—no other gallery is as monstrous. I have hope that the Louvre is the great flood and there will never be one like it again. If there is, I will know not to have my hopes up when I go and to bring a mental image of a blank wall to place behind every piece I see.