In Pictures: See Inside the Empty Louvre, Where Conservators Are Sprucing Up Masterpieces During Lockdown

See behind-the-scenes pictures from the world's most-visited museum.

The Mona Lisa is displayed in the empty
The Mona Lisa is displayed in the empty "Salle des Etats" of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

As France weathers its second lockdown, cultural institutions across Paris have shut down and the streets are quiet. But behind closed doors, the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, is a hive of activity.

While visitors can’t enter the storied museum—which welcomed more than nine million people in 2019—restoration specialists, curators, and other experts are hard at work, seizing the calm provided by the shutdown to execute refurbishments ranging from the dusting of 4,500 paintings to the meticulous cleanup of stone-etched hieroglyphs.

“For some projects, the lockdown has allowed us to do in five days what would have previously taken five weeks,” general curator Sébastien Allard told the New York Times. Pre-pandemic, the museum was open six days a week, welcoming up to 40,000 visitors a day, which meant that maintenance work could only be carried out on Tuesdays.

Having faced months of closure, the Louvre suffered a 72 percent drop in attendance in 2020 and faces a projected revenue loss of more than €90 million ($107.7 million). On January 29, despite pushback from the cultural sector, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France’s museums would remain closed indefinitely.

And while that may be bad news for the Louvre’s bottom line, it’s arguably good news for the art. See behind-the-scenes pictures from inside the museum below.

Un-manned information desks in the empty entrance hall, usually bustling with activity. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Un-manned information desks in the empty entrance hall, usually bustling with activity. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The empty "Grande Gallerie." Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The empty “Grande Gallerie.” Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The eerily empty “Salle Mollien” (Mollien room), Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The eerily empty "Salle Mollien" (Mollien room), Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The eerily empty “Salle Mollien” (Mollien room), Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The empty Corridor of the Denon wing, Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Painters of the restoration department of the Louvre Museum at work. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Painters of the restoration department of the Louvre Museum at work. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

The Great Sphinx of Tanis, at the Louvre. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Sophie Duberson, of the restoration department of the Louvre Museum cleans the Egyptian funerary stele Senusret. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Sophie Duberson, of the restoration department of the Louvre Museum, cleans the Egyptian funerary stele Senusret. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.

Salle du Manege, at the Louvre Museum. Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images.


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