Reopened Paris Musee d’Orsay hopes for state support, Louvre's galleries to reopen soon but without Mona Lisa

Reuters , Saturday 27 Jun 2020

The lock-down had cost Louvre about 40 million euros in lost ticket office revenue, while Musee d’Orsay's losses prompt it to hope for special support from the state

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Visitors wear protective face masks as they look at artworks during a visit to the Musee d'Orsay, the former Gare d'Orsay train station, as the museum re-opens its doors to the public, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Paris, France, June 23, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

The French government began easing its lockdown measures and cultural venues are slowly reopening. The Palace of Versailles reopened on June 6 and the Louvre museum will welcome back visitors from July 6

The Musee d’Orsay in Paris, home of the French Impressionists, reopened to the public on Tuesday, three months after being forced to shut by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its head called for state help to recover from the financial costs of the lockdown.

The museum can usually attract up to 15,000 visitors a day during the summer months, but with France’s borders still closed to many foreign tourists and with social distancing in place, its daily capacity has now been cut to 5,000.

“The crisis has hit the cultural world very hard. Our revenue shortfall will be significant. We are in a complex situation with a very tough period to navigate in 2020-21,” said museum head Laurence des Cars.

“We are hoping for special support from the state.”

Ticket sales make up 70% of the Orsay’s revenue, and foreign tourists account for 70% of all visitors during the summer.

Visitors are now asked to book tickets online, to wear protective face masks and observe social distancing rules.

Orsay, a former railway station on the left bank of the Seine river, houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces.

Access to the entrance and exit is signposted, but circulation within the collection and exhibitions remains free.

Visitors wandering around the Orsay’s permanent collections and a new retrospective of French artist James Tissot on Tuesday were delighted that the museum had reopened.

“I was happy and emotional (on learning of the reopening), and the proof is that I’m here on the first day,” said Yvette, an 80-year-old Parisian.

Media people, wearing protective face masks, stand in front of the painting "Mona Lisa" (La Joconde) by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Louvre museum in Paris as the museum prepares to reopen its doors to the public following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France, June 23, 2020. Picture taken June 23, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

France’s Louvre Museum is getting ready to reopen, but visitors will find one feature missing: the heaving crowd jostling to get a view of the “Mona Lisa”.

With many foreign tourists not expected back for months, and strict social distancing measures in place, the post-outbreak Louvre that opens on July 6 is likely to be a more serene experience than usual.

Workers this week were putting the final touches on preparations at the former palace on the banks of the Seine that, according to managers, is the world’s most visited museum.

There will be disinfecting hand gel dispensers, a booking system that allocates time slots to visitors, a one-way system, as well as signs reminding visitors to keep one metre (yard) apart and wear masks.

And managers anticipate that initial visitor numbers will be only a fifth of pre-outbreak levels.

The museum’s director Jean-Luc Martinez said its sheer size - 45,000 square metres of galleries containing 30,000 works will reopen - means it will not be hard to respect physical distancing.

“It’s not somewhere where you’re going to be crushed up against each other,” he said.

Before the outbreak, the Louvre had around 1 million visitors each month in the summer season. Three quarters of them were foreign tourists.

Many visitors traditionally made a beeline for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”, often resulting in a crowd several people deep in front of it.

Martinez said the COVID-19 lockdown had cost about 40 million euros ($45 million) in lost ticket office revenue, cancelled events and shop sales.

He said the Louvre would weather the storm, although it was likely to need two or three years to get back to normal.

 “This palace is more than 800 years old, the museum has been open for more than 200 years. Of course this crisis is an unusual moment, but the Louvre will remain,” he said.

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