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The Louvre Museum looks to rehouse the 'Mona Lisa' in its own room — underground

Visitors observe the painting the <em>Mona Lisa</em> by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci on display in a gallery at Louvre on May 19, 2021 in Paris, France.
Marc Piasecki
/
Getty Images
Visitors observe the painting the Mona Lisa by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci on display in a gallery at Louvre on May 19, 2021 in Paris, France.

The room which houses the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris was last renovated only five years ago, in 2019.

But the museum is now already looking at making further improvements.

In an interview with French broadcaster France Inter, excerpts of which are available on social media, the Louvre's director, Laurence des Cars, said her institution is now looking at upgrading both the conditions surrounding Leonardo da Vinci's iconic Renaissance painting, as well as the overall visitor experience.

"I place it at the heart of my mission as the director to better welcome the public. And it's always frustrating when our visitor experience is not quite up to par — as is the case, obviously, with the Mona Lisa," said des Cars in the France Inter interview on Friday. "So in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, we are thinking about making necessary improvements."

According to a report this past week in the French newspaper Le Figaro, the plans involve moving the painting, which is worth more than $830 million by some estimates, into a separate underground room. Currently, the Mona Lisa shares a large room with other artworks.

The proposed upgrades, according to Le Figaro, would create two subterranean entry points for visitors: one for the Mona Lisa and the other for temporary exhibitions. The estimated renovation budget is 500 million euros (about $535 million). But the price tag could be affected by state budget cuts.

A visitor photographs the painting the <em>Mona Lisa</em> by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci on display in a gallery at the Louvre on May 19, 2021 in Paris.
Marc Piasecki / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
A visitor photographs the painting the Mona Lisa by Italian artist Leonardo Da Vinci on display in a gallery at the Louvre on May 19, 2021 in Paris.

The Louvre is the world's most-visited museum, bringing in 8-10 million people last year, and the Mona Lisa is by far its biggest attraction. The museum receives some 20-30,000 visitors daily.

But many museum-goers complain about waiting in line for hours, the stuffy conditions, and only getting to spend a few seconds viewing the painting, which is housed behind bulletproof glass.

One recent analysis of visitors' online reviews of big museums and their most lauded artworks cited the Mona Lisa as "the world's most disappointing masterpiece," owing to the negativity of nearly 40% of reviews.

The Mona Lisa itself has also been the target of numerous attacks over the years. In January, climate change activists threw soup at the painting. The work itself was not damaged.

With Paris hosting the Olympic Games this summer, the Louvre is expecting a deluge of visitors. This past week the museum launched a special exhibition devoted to the origins of the global sports event.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.