Thursday, May 21, 2009

jour no. 21 - The Louvre, part deux: the bad, the ugly

Anyone opposed to snobbery and misanthropy, please skip this post.

OK, now the rest of you (which I gather is everyone, but especially Jonathan), let me tell you about the Dark Side of the Louvre: the crowds and crowds of lemming-like tourists running from one Must-See to another.

Despite being from just about every country on the planet, these people all seemed exactly alike (to me). It was like, "Tracksuits of the World, Unite!"

If you wish to join their club, here's how it works: Find a Major Work of Art (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, statue of Ramses II), stand with your back to it, have your picture taken, check to make sure you got the photo, and rush off to the next item on the list. Rinse, repeat.

The frenzy around the Venus de Milo reminded me of a red carpet scene, and standing behind her, you get this view of a wall of cameras and cameraphones and camcorders.

It was horrid. Luckily, as with the Met, the place is big enough that most of your experience can be relatively calm. But do not count on having a serene moment of contemplation of this lovely statue.


  1. The 'trophy' shot--here I am, standing by a world famous piece of art. Not that I'll spend anytime looking at it.

    I was standing outide the Accademia Museum in Florence. A couple of Chinese tourist were in front of me. Like most people, they had a guidebook out that they were reading as they waited.

    Some had guide books specifically for the Accademia Museum. Some had guide books for all of the places in Florence. Some had guide books for all of Italy. And I'm sure there were even one or two with gude books for all of Europe. But the Chinese guy had them all beat--he had a guide book for the entire world!! And it was ony about an inch thick!

    But there the picture of the 'David' statue was on his page, and yes, he was going to cross that sight off of the list!

    What does it mean to see those works of art? Are they so familiar that their impact is lost? Or is it too hard to get the quiet moment to find the essence that made it great?

    The most rewarding museums can be some of the lesser known ones, with the images you haven't seen before.

  2. Oh sweety, I would have called them FAT too, like the woman to the right in your photo (it's the whol expanse of blue)

    I agree with you on all points! 80% of the Louvre is brilliant and uncroweded, the rest of it is littered with this human detritus going from one thing to the next.

  3. Apparently I need to relearn how to spell.

  4. The Louvre was one of the places we (the wife and I) most wanted to visit on our first trip to Paris, and it was the place we could not get out of fast enough once we got there.

    Granted, we ourselves added to the problem of crowding -- so it goes -- but yes, you got it exactly right. What was so confounding were the hordes of people standing in front of The Big Ones (Mona, Venus, etc.) smiling and having their pictures taken while the rest of us just wanted to see the darn things. The smaller museums were so much nicer. Going to them was like, well, going to Paris.

    BTW, thank your friend JW for leading me here, via your Erie tourist takedown essay.

  5. I recently returned from my first trip to Paris and London. I can only add to your observations by saying that although I took a few photographs inside the museums that allowed them, I came to wish cameras were banned and confiscated in the museums. Walking through a crowded museum becomes even harder when people are stopping in their tracks to take photos, and you are dodging their cameras. I finally gave up an being polite and stepped in front of any shot in progress I had to to cross the galleries.

  6. I'm vacationing in Paris now just across from the Louvre in fact. Since our last visit here in 2001 the frenzy of visitors has definitely gotten worse. Forget about coming early, or what day of the week it is- nothing seems to matter. Once we got in, it was just a fight to get out.