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.
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