Louvre Considers Moving Mona Lisa To Underground Chamber To End "Public Disappointment"

Artnews_ When I took my mother back to Paris for her first visit in nearly five decades, there was no question we would go to the Louvre. I was more surprised that she wanted to stand in the long line to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503) for the few seconds we would get to take pictures and selfies with the famous painting.

This experience is often annoying and disappointing for tourists, with one recent analysis of 18,000 reviews deeming the Renaissance portrait “the world’s most disappointing masterpiece.”

Da Vinci’s iconic image of an almost-smiling woman is protected by bullet-proof, anti-reflective glass, along with tightly-controlled temperature and humidity settings to ensure the painting’s conservation.

In an effort to remedy this situation, the Mona Lisa may be moved to an underground chamber, according to a report in The Telegraph Tuesday.

Louvre director Laurence des Cars recently suggested the relocation of the popular artwork to a dedicated room constructed in the institution’s basement.

“We don’t welcome visitors very well in this room, so we feel we’re not doing our job properly,” de Cars told staff and supervisors. “Moving the Mona Lisa to a separate room could put an end to public disappointment.”

“We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but this time everyone is in agreement,” Vincent Delieuvin, the Louvre’s chief curator of 16th-century Italian painting told the French newspaper Le Figaro.

“It’s a large room, and the Mona Lisa is at the back, behind its security glass, so at first glance it looks like a postage stamp,” he said.

The Louvre receives nine million visitors annually, and according to museum officials, the Mona Lisa is the main attraction for 80 per cent of those people. During especially busy days, 250,000 people stand in the same line my mother and I did.

The painting’s popularity has prompted other attempts to improve the viewing experience, including a repainting of the gallery’s walls from eggshell yellow to midnight blue in 2019, as well as a shift in the queuing system for visitors.

But Delieuvin said that the impact of social media and mass tourism means a greater effort is required, especially after the artwork’s celebrity has risen after its theft in 1911.

“In this day and age, you have to have seen something that everyone is talking about at least once in your life, and the Mona Lisa is clearly one of those ‘must sees’,” the curator said.

A new underground chamber for painting would be part of a future “Grand Louvre” renovation, with a new entrance to the museum. Visitors would bypass the glass pyramid entry and be lead directly to underground rooms: one for the Mona Lisa and the other for temporary exhibitions.

“The mood in the museum is now ripe,” said des Cars. “We have to embrace the painting’s status as a global icon, which is beyond our control.”

The budget for the Louvre’s overhaul is estimated at €500 million, according toLe Figaro. But the French economy has yielded worse-than-expected debt and deficit forecasts, resulting in President Emmanuel Macron’s government trying to reduce state spending by €25 billion in its next annual budget.

The Mona Lisawas also the site of a protest in January, after activists threw pumpkin soup at it. The painting suffered no damage, but the incident was denounced by culture minister Rachida Dati as an attack on French heritage.