The Louvre's Latest Exhibit Is Too Popular for Its Own Good

Security staff threatens to strike as a new Vermeer exhibition draws thousands to the Paris museum.

Between the fear of terrorism following the November 2015 attack at the Bataclan theatre and the flooding of the Seine river in June, 2016 was a difficult year for tourism in France. The downturn particularly affected the Louvre, which had 15 percent fewer visitors this year.

"We should finish the year at 7.3 million visitors, 15 percent less than in 2015, and a loss of at least €9.7 million [about $10.2 million], not to mention the lower revenues in booksellers or restaurants," Jean-Luc Martinez, the president and director of the Louvre, said in an interview with Le Figaro in January.

Now, the intense popularity of a new Johannes Vermeer exhibit is proving to be too much of a good thing.

"Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting," which features ten of Vermeer's paintings alongside many of his contemporaries' until May 22, has drawn thousands to the museum, spawning crowd-control issues. The security staff has threatened to hold a strike if changes are not implemented.

According to the Art Newspaper, 40,000 people came to see the exhibit during its first week, creating long lines and hours-long wait times before admission into the hall, which has a capacity of only 250 to 300 people. The publication also reports that demand for the exhibit crashed the museum's digital reservation system.

Finding a silver lining in this situation, a spokesperson for the museum told the Art Newspaper: "We should be happy to see that crowds can also show up for an Old Masters exhibition, and not just for contemporary shows," adding that the museum has promised to get wait times down to 45 minutes by requiring visitors to use tickets with specific entry times.


But if they can't get it under control, the museum's security staff plans to have a strike. In a letter to Martinez, Francoise Pinson, the secretary general of GCT, the union that represents many of France's museum workers, wrote that security is "suffering constant physical and verbal aggression," stemming from the lack of organization.

Adding to the increased visitor numbers, a new ticketing system for the museum was launched in tandem with the Vermeer exhibition. Previously, a separate ticket was needed for special exhibitions. Now the museum offers a single ticket option, priced from €15 to €17. It covers general admission to the museum in addition to any special exhibits.

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Caroline Hallemann
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