The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Other French Museums Close as France Limits Gatherings to 100 People

The government had previously allowed 1,000 people into museums at a time.

The Galerie Medicis, featuring Peter Paul Rubens's Marie de' Medici Cycle, in the Richelieu wing at the Louvre in Paris Photo by Matt Biddulph, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

French museums including the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay will close on Friday evening until further notice as authorities step up vigilance to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Ministry of Culture has instructed all museums and libraries to either cap attendance at 100 people or close to the public.

In recent weeks, French museums had previously limited attendance to 1,000 people at a time—but on Friday, that number dropped to 100, making even reduced operations untenable for most museums.

Those who have already purchased tickets to the Louvre will be reimbursed. As a result of the closure, the museum has also postponed two exhibitions, one on the German painter Albrecht Altdorfer (originally due to open April 23) and another on Italian Renaissance sculpture titled “The Body and the Soul: From Donatello to Michelangelo” (originally scheduled for May 6). New dates have not yet been confirmed.

This isn’t the first time the Louvre has closed in the wake of the outbreak. The museum shuttered for three days beginning March 1 after staff voted almost unanimously to refuse to work over safety fears, which is permitted under French law.

Following negotiations, museum leadership agreed to provide workers with small bottles of hand sanitizer and to divert ticket purchases almost entirely to self-service ticket machines. The museum also agreed to no longer require guards to navigate the crowds in front of the Mona Lisa. Since the museum reopened on March 4 until today, only visitors with pre-booked e-tickets were guaranteed entry.

Now, however, the doors will close for what is expected to be a more extended period. France joins a growing number of countries that have closed their museums (and galleries that have opted to shut their doors out of an abundance of caution) in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Countries with widespread shutdowns include the United States (where museums have taken measures on a case-by-case basis), Qatar, Germany, Spain, Poland, and Italy.

Today, however, some good news came from Asia: Museums in China and South Korea are beginning to reopen after aggressive lockdowns and quarantine procedures seem to have have curbed the spread of the disease.

For a comprehensive and consistently updated list of art-world closures and postponements, click here


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