This semester, one of my classes will be taking weekly visits to known — and relatively unknown — Paris museums. We’ll be looking at the art and the collections, but moreso we’ll be focusing on what each museum is trying to communicate and how they are doing it. Every Monday I’ll come back with a report on what we saw and what went on at the museum.
The number one rule to the Louvre?
A few years ago, when I went to the National Gallery of Art in Washington with my grandfather, he spoke of how the museum had become a shopping mall. That same fate has regrettably reached the Louvre as well, where a full shopping mall lurks underneath. Despair.
But, this is why it’s so important to look up. Hiding on the ceilings and in the corners of the Louvre is a museum much more interesting than just the Mona Lisa; a museum holding a remarkable history as well as collections evolving into the present day. Plus, who knew there was a Matisse at the Louvre, not-so-sneakily resting on a ceiling? (I didn’t.)
On our visit, we talked a lot about the museum’s accessibility and how it was a form of revolution through art when it was first established as a museum. The king’s house and goods were on display; it allowed the French to become more “civilized”. Even if the museum wasn’t transforming them into civilized citizens with a wealth of knowledge, it transformed the perceived self-identities of the citizens, who would in turn believe that they were more worldly.
In 2000, Jacques Chirac opened a wing in the museum dedicated to art from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania. These exhibits lack the classical training found in France, Italy, and Spain, yet somehow better capture the spirit of the nations from which they come. One of the heads from Easter Island is there, and like most other sculptures in the wing, it feels oddly out of place.
In 2012, François Hollande opened the most recent addition, a wing for Islamic art. Backing the walls of the dimly lit room were several colorful tiles that reminded me so much of Sévilla and the Islamic-inspired art of Andalousia. The exhibit boasts many relics from many Islamic countries, and it is one of the more modern ones in the museum, with light-up maps and special displays for the visually and hearing impaired.
Unlike the more traditional Western wings, these two wings were much less crowded, yet seemed to hold more of a wealth of information in comparison, seemingly opening the Western world to other cultures — which was, in theory, why museums began in the first place, right?
Of course, Victoire de Samothrace still gives me goosebumps, but seeing (literally) another world inside the Louvre made it a much better experience than every other time I’ve gone and gotten lost and given up. I still took a picture of the people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa, though (the guards didn’t stop me this time). ♦
Le Musée du Louvre
M° Palais Royale/Musée du Louvre
Past Mondays at the Museum: