The Louvre, by far the most popular museum in France, should get rid of its most iconic piece – the Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, painted in the early 16th century by Leonardo da Vinci – New York Times art critic Jason Farago wrote on Wednesday in an opinion piece, provocatively titled "It’s Time to Take Down Mona Lisa".
“The Louvre is being held hostage by the Kim Kardashian of 16th-century Italian portraiture: the handsome but only moderately interesting Lisa Gherardini, better known (after her husband) as La Gioconda, whose renown so eclipses her importance that no one can even remember how she got famous in the first place", Farago wrote.
His explosive claim is not without merit according to some. In his article, Farago cites statistics which show some 80 percent of Louvre visitors come there just to see this one painting and, if lucky, take a selfie with it.
He said the crowding caused by the painting made the museum feel like a “cattle pen” this summer amid “100-degree-plus heat".
"The overcrowding was so bad, the museum had to shut its doors on several days", he writes, adding that the situation has not improved since then.
“You must line up in a hideous, [Transportation Security Administration]-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking and way too far for a good selfie", Farago writes. “This is a gallery that makes the Spirit Airlines boarding process look like a model of efficiency, and offers about as much visual delight".
He continued by saying that, apart from the Mona Lisa phenomenon, the rest of the Louvre does not suffer from overcrowding but, if the tourist flow increases with its current dynamic, “the place is going to crack".
Farago called on the museum to evict the painting to a separate facility, which he suggested could be named “Sheikh Zayed-Louis Vuitton-Samsung Galaxy-Ladurée Macarons Mona Lisa Pavilion", where people can enjoy “the art, the shopping, the sweets and the selfies".
“Then let them rediscover the Louvre as a museum", the critic wrote.
While the article was mocked in the US media, including The Daily Caller and New York Magazine’s "The Cut", most commenters on Twitter appeared to agree with Farago’s sentiment.
I hope they take it down. Theres plenty of other great paintings. The weird fixation that hordes of people have with this painting is so annoying. Look at the photo. Does that look like a comfortable situation?— Benjamin Erhardt (@benerhardart) November 6, 2019
While many commenters decried the crowds that make viewing the painting a miserable experience, others sarcastically praised it for keeping crowds from the rest of the museum.
That painting is absolutely invaluable for concentrating the majority of tourists in one section of the museum, leaving the rest of the building largely uncrowded.— Alex Lemieux (@AlexPLemieux) November 6, 2019
One commenter said that while people do tend to rush to see the painting, mostly ignoring the rest of the Louvre’s vast collection, the Mona Lisa should stay within the premises to attract people to other masterpieces – even if by chance.
I've often been amused by platoons of tourists rushing past & ignoring even greater works of art, including some by Leonardo, not far away, in their haste to see her and make it back to the bus. What's the harm, if they happen to catch a look at something else sublime on the way?— Sojournaliste (@mebcaux) November 6, 2019