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Mona Lisa. Why is it so unbelievably popular?

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level 1
1 point · 3 years ago

When I was in Paris during Nov 2014 I was with a university group so we showed up well before opening time. We were in the queue like 30 mins early and were maybe ~30 people from the front.

When the doors opened people were going through security and then sprinting to the Mona Lisa. Old people were being knocked over and children were being temporarily abandoned as they struggled to keep up with their families. We followed to see the spectacle of an art stampede and the people who had arrived there first were competing for the best selfie angles...

It was an absolute frenzy but it was also hilarious. We watched for a while and then peeled off to see the Flemish Renaissance collection.

Just as a side note, does anyone else feel that the Louvre would benefit from less French nationalism? There are some serious blockbusters there but you have to navigate through cavernous room-after-room of French filler to get to them.

level 2

The Louvre is not like other museums (e.g. MoMA in New York). Consider the history of the Louvre. It is almost inextricably bound up with French national history. So, I think it's understandable that there is a heavy focus on French art and I'm not sure the Louvre would retain its institutional identity if it became more "global."

level 3
2 points · 3 years ago

I understand that there are historical reasons for French nationalism but compared to, for example, Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid - that does embrace an international approach to art - it just comes up short. The Thyssen is not even the national gallery, but its curation is much stronger because it isn't hamstrung by national politics.

Maybe the National Gallery in London would be a more apt comparison but then the issue is even more accentuated. It has absolutely no filler whatsoever! Why have a national gallery with inferior works?

level 4

Why have a national gallery with inferior works?

Well, let's not go there. Our discipline is replete with instances of long-overlooked artists being recovered at some point for some reason. I agree that there are galleries in the Louvre that don't reward patient spectatorship, but I wouldn't empty them either. And, like I said, the Louvre occupies a very unique position that (I think) also indicates why it cannot become a more "global" or international museum without losing something very foundational to its identity.

Whether that's a choice they want to make is up to them. Given that France, and Paris especially, has so many other museums that do a great job of attending to a more expansive sense of art history, I don't think the Louvre faces any pressing obligation in this area.

level 4
The ugly triangle between the legs of Michelangelo's David1 point · 3 years ago

I think the point of a National Gallery is to first and foremost display works that come from that nation.

And as France has such a huge place in western art history, I think they can get a bit of slack for showing some French pride.

Note: I have yet to visit the Louvre, I hope to visit next time I visit Europe.

level 1
2 points · 3 years ago

While known as a significant work in Leonardo's oeuvre, the incident that solidified its fame was the 1911 theft of the painting, and its eventual recovery a few years later. Read more here and here

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