by David Chazan, The Telegraph, August 19, 2019
Visitors to the Louvre who have queued patiently for hours are complaining that museum staff are allowing them less than a minute to view the Mona Lisa.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece is the main attraction for an estimated 30,000 people a day - about 80 per cent of visitors to the Paris museum - and staff are struggling to cope with the crowds.
The Mona Lisa was recently moved from her usual gallery in the Salle des États, currently being renovated, to a temporary home in the Galérie Médicis.
The relocation has created bottlenecks of visitors lining corridors and the Louvre is now advising that only those who have pre-booked will be guaranteed a glimpse of the world’s most famous portrait.
The queue for admission stretches for hundreds of yards outside the futuristic glass-and-metal pyramid that serves as the main entrance to the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum.
After standing in line for at least an hour, visitors now have to queue again if they want to see the Mona Lisa.
Every few minutes, some 200 tourists surge towards the painting, clutching their mobile phones, but museum attendants swiftly draw a rope across the front of the queue to hold back the next wave of eager visitors.
Most pay little attention to the magnificent Rubens paintings on the walls, focussed only on seeing the Mona Lisa in its protective glass enclosure and taking selfies.
Many complain that museum staff give them only a minute or less to view the painting and take a selfie before moving them on to clear space for others.
“The staff treated visitors like cattle,” complained Xavier on TripAdvisor. “Result: stress to see the painting behind glass from several metres. Scandalous!”
Many are also disappointed that the painting is smaller than they expected — just 77cm by 53cm.
“Queues were horrendous just to get in and another queue for the Mona Lisa and that was a let down as it is very small and you have to stand quite a way from it to view,” another visitor commented.
Some advised fellow travellers to avoid it altogether. “Just skip it,” one said.
“To see it (for 30 seconds), you have to stand in the line for 1-2 hours. It’s not a single line, it’s a line for the security, a line to enter the museum, a line to get to each one of the 3 stairways to the 3rd floor, and then a big line to watch the Mona Lisa.”
Vincent Pomarède, the Louvre’s deputy managing director, said museum staff were doing their best but from the autumn visitors would need to pre-book.
“A tourist who comes without a booking runs the risk of waiting a long time and maybe even not getting in,” he said. “It’s the only way to guarantee entry.”
Over 10 million people a year, many of them Chinese and Americans, visit the Louvre every year. Last month, officials had to restrict access for three days in an effort to control the queues.
In May, staff went on strike in a protest against overcrowding, complaining that they felt “suffocated” and closing the museum for a day.
The Mona Lisa will return to her usual gallery in time for a major exhibition opening in October marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death.