The Louvre — a telling tale of society’s unbearable lightness
When you pass by the glass pyramid in the Louvre courtyard, you will see two kinds of people: those who queue to enter the museum and those who take pictures pretending to hold the pyramid. Before you visit the Louvre, you should stop for a minute to watch them. Forget about the beautiful surroundings and just observe these people for a little while, knowing you’ll have to see them again once inside.
If you decide to go on with your visit, walk away from the crowds and go to the farthest corner of the museum’s left wing. It’s called Porte de Lions and there you’ll find an entrance tourists don’t know about. If at the pyramid entrance you can queue for hours on end, at Porte the Lions you’ll be lucky to find five people in the line to buy tickets. The reason people don’t know about this entrance is not because it’s a big secret. In fact, if you google “the fastest way to get in the Louvre”, you’ll find tons of mentions of Porte de Lions. But people don’t try to find the best way in. Like sheep, they go where the biggest crowd is.
By this point, if you decided not to go inside, I congratulate you. If, however, you are already holding a ticket in your hand, I hope you’re armed with a big bottle of water, a plan, patience and a great sense of humour. There are free floor plans you get with your tickets, but once inside you’ll realise how useless they are if you want to see more than the Mona Lisa. The museum is spread over three wings and four floors and unless you made a list with everything you want to see or studied the floor plans at home, you won’t have a clue how to find your way around. The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum and home to over thirty-five thousand artworks. In order to see everything, you would probably need three or four full days. But the thing is, you couldn’t survive that long inside the museum. Three or four hours it’s probably the best you could do unless you’re fucking Ghandi.
The museum is quite poorly organised and there is a lack of proper directions given its size and popularity, yet these are the smallest impediments to enjoying some of world’s finest art. One of the first shocking things you will experience once inside is the horrendous smell. The ventilation system hasn’t probably been checked since Louis XIV left the Louvre and moved to Versailles. You would think sixty thousand square meters gives one plenty of room not to suffocate, but it’s actually easy to suffer a panic attack if you’re not very strong. And by strong I mean immune to shit smell. The Louvre has more in common with a concentration camp than you imagine. Beside the air that smells like a few hundred people were recently gassed, there’s also the way people walk from one room to the other: clueless and aimless, as if they were zombies.
The second thing that makes Louvre impossible to enjoy is the fact that you can’t actually see the art because there is something standing –quite literally- between you and Da Vinci’s oeuvres: it’s the hundreds of people who had been queuing at the pyramid. Don’t be fooled thinking the reason why they push you until your ribs go numb is because they want to see the art as well. These people only want to take selfies with the Mona Lisa or photograph her. It still baffles me why anyone would struggle to do the latter when it’s so easy to find a better quality picture on the Internet. The selfie-taking type, on the other hand, is easier to understand: for them, it’s more important that theirFacebook friends see they’ve “seen” the Mona Lisa than it is for themselves to have a memory of actually doing so. Maybe a small number of people take pictures of themselves grinning in front of a painting in order to have a souvenir from their travels, but the majority do it in order to get more validation on social media. These are the people for whom if something doesn’t exist on Facebook, it doesn’t exist at all.
I always thought museums resemble churches in their stillness, the sound of solitary steps on the cold marble, the peacefulness and the people gazing at art in quiet reflection. But the Louvre has more in common with a county fair than with a church. It’s noisy, crowded and filled with tacky people who can’t take pleasure in simply looking at or admiring things they can’t touch. On my last visit, I was staring at Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, one of the most exquisite sculptures in the world. I was captivated not only by the level of detail in Michelangelo’s work but mostly about the slave’s features: his face seemed so alive as if it wasn’t carved out of stone. I was thinking how hard he must have worked in order to pour such subtlety and emotion into cold, hard, rock when something happened that instantly brought me back to reality: a woman jumped in front of me and grabbed the Slave’s penis for her boyfriend to take a picture. She had a clangorous laugh that made me want to punch her in the face.
The Louvre isn’t a museum anymore, but simply a tourist attraction. And for the rest of us, the best place to observe our society at its worst. It’s both interesting and scary to be able to see the juxtaposition between what artistic genius gave our world and the smallness, mediocrity and sheer stupidity of people who don’t understand, nor appreciate art. One has to be very limited not be brought to tears by Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss, for example. The expression on Psyche’s face, Cupid’s smile, the craft and beauty of telling a love story with two characters that don’t move is astonishing. Yet people pass by and smack Cupid’s ass. Such vulgarity is beyond cringe-worthy, it should simply not be allowed in a museum. But then again, if they didn’t allow people to fart, touch the art or take selfies, who would still pay to visit the museum? Probably very few of us and that wouldn’t be great for the economy.
Accepting that most people are uneducated and hopeless is depressing and almost makes me want to give up and move to Liberland. Yet the idealist in me would rather believe our society is not entirely broken. I’d like to think we are not devoid of values and if our intellectual capacities are not vast, at least we’re striving and aspiring to broaden them. In the spirit of trying to do my bit, last week at the Louvre I didn’t punch the woman who shoved me in front of Venus de Milo. Instead, I smiled and said Venus wasn’t going anywhere for a while and that we were there to admire her, not to take pictures. I was about to launch myself in an overzealous attempt to tell her the story of the statue when I realised she wasn’t listening. She was trying to give me her camera so I could take a picture of her next to Venus. Maybe it was my imagination, but in that moment I could have sworn Venus rolled her eyes. And if she still had her arms, I would have chopped one off myself so that a few centuries of culture could hit that woman over her empty head.