With no crowds, Louvre gets rare chance to refurbish

Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_09548 Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa hangs on the wall in a deserted Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. The 518-year-old Mona Lisa will have seen many things in her life on display, but rarely this: Almost four months with no visitors. She stares out in Paris' Louvre, across bulletproof glass into the now-silent emptiness of the shuttered Salle des Etats.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_09942 The sculpture The Victory of Samothrace is seen in a deserted Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. It's uncertain when the Louvre will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rarified private look of collections covering 9,000 years of human history -- with plenty of space to breathe.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_03663 Workers at the Louvre museum handle a painting called Saint Louis, King of France, and his Page by Spanish painter El Greco, as it returns from an exhibition at the Chicago Institute, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_46622 Workers at the Louvre museum pull a scaffolding in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Though empty corridors and vacant galleries are a grim sight for frustrated art-lovers, they are a golden opportunity to do works of renovation, refurbishment and re-ordering that were simply not possible with the around 10 million visitors per year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_53497 Workers handle a bust of Guillaume de Lamoignon by French sculptor Francois Girardon, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Though empty corridors and vacant galleries are a grim sight for frustrated art-lovers, they are a golden opportunity to do works of renovation, refurbishment and re-ordering that were simply not possible with the around 10 million visitors per year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_77714 The Venus of Milo sculpture, background, is lit by a ray of light in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. It's uncertain when the Louvre will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rarified private look of collections covering 9,000 years of human history -- with plenty of space to breathe.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_12203 Workers at the Louvre museum transport a painting called 'Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors' by Spanish painter El Greco, as it returns from an exhibition at the Chicago Institute, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_10973 The sculpture called 'Funerary monument to Francois-Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conti' by French sculptor Nicolas Coustou is covered with plastic sheeting, at the Louvre museum in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_45818 The Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture stands at the top of a staircase in a deserted Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. It's uncertain when the Louvre will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rarified private look of collections covering 9,000 years of human history -- with plenty of space to breathe.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_55777 A view of the hall of Greek sculptures in a deserted Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Though empty corridors and vacant galleries are a grim sight for frustrated art-lovers, they are a golden opportunity to do works of renovation, refurbishment and re-ordering that were simply not possible with the around 10 million visitors per year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_30579 Workers handle a painting called 'Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors' by Spanish painter El Greco, as it returns from an exhibition at the Chicago Institute, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The forced closure has also granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_72032 Workers at the Louvre museum set up a scaffolding in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The forced closure has granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_04921 Workers of the Louvre museum lift a painting called 'Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors' by Spanish painter El Greco, as it returns from an exhibition at the Chicago Institute, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The forced closure has granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_72338 Workers transport a bust of Guillaume de Lamoignon by French sculptor Francois Girardon, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. The forced closure has granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_33383 A man walks through the deserted Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. It's uncertain when the Louvre will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rarified private look of collections covering 9,000 years of human history -- with plenty of space to breathe.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_42789 Workers handle a bust of Charles Le Brun by French sculptor Antoine Coysevox, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. It's uncertain when the Louvre will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rarified private look of collections covering 9,000 years of human history -- with plenty of space to breathe.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_34752 A worker transports the painting called 'Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias y Leiva' by Spanish painter El Greco, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Though empty corridors and vacant galleries are a grim sight for frustrated art-lovers, they are a golden opportunity to do works of renovation, refurbishment and re-ordering that were simply not possible with the around 10 million visitors per year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_00112 Workers handle the painting called 'The Healing of Saint Bonaventure as a Child by Saint Francis' by Spanish painter Francisco de Herrera, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The forced closure has granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_31227 Dancer Germain Louvet performs during the filming of a commercial, in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Though empty corridors and vacant galleries are a grim sight for frustrated art-lovers, they are a golden opportunity to do works of renovation, refurbishment and re-ordering that were simply not possible with the around 10 million visitors per year.
Virus_Outbreak_France_Louvre_52864 A worker cleans the Marly courtyard in the Louvre museum, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Gone are the crowds' sweltering heat, the jostling for a view and the constant snapping of cameras. It's uncertain when the world's most visited museum will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government's virus measures.
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PARIS (AP) — The 518-year-old Mona Lisa has seen many things in her life on a wall, but rarely this: Almost four months with no Louvre visitors.

As she stares out through bulletproof glass into the silent Salle des Etats, in what was once the world’s most-visited museum, her celebrated smile could almost denote relief. A bit further on, the white marble Venus de Milo is for once free of her girdle of picture-snapping visitors.

It’s uncertain when the Paris museum will reopen, after being closed on Oct. 30 in line with the French government’s virus containment measures. But those lucky enough to get in benefit from a rare private look at collections covering 9,000 years of human history — with plenty of space to breathe.

That’s normally sorely lacking in a museum that’s blighted by its own success: Before the pandemic, staff walked out complaining they couldn’t handle the overcrowding, with up to 30,000-40,000 visitors a day.

The forced closure has also granted museum officials a golden opportunity to carry out long-overdue refurbishments that were simply not possible with nearly 10 million visitors a year.

Unlike the first lockdown, which brought all Louvre activities to a halt, the second has seen some 250 of the museum employees remain fully operational.

An army of curators, restorers and workers are cleaning sculptures, reordering artifacts, checking inventories, reorganizing entrances and conducting restorations, including in the Egyptian Wing and the Grande Galerie, the museum’s largest hall that is being fully renovated.

“We’re taking advantage of the museum’s closure to carry out a number of major works, speed up maintenance operations and start repair works that are difficult to schedule when the museum is operating normally,” Laurent le Guedart, the Louvre’s Architectural Heritage and Gardens Director told AP from inside the Grande Galerie.

As le Guedart spoke, restorers were standing atop scaffolds taking scientific probes of the walls in preparation for a planned restoration, travelling back to the 18th century through layer after layer of paint.

Around the corner the sound of carpenters taking up floorboards was faintly audible. They were putting in the cables for a new security system.

Previously, these jobs could only be done on a Tuesday, the Louvre’s only closed day in the week. Now hammers are tapping, machines drilling and brushes scrubbing to a full week schedule, slowed down only slightly by social distancing measures.

In total, ten large-scale projects that were on hold since last March are under way — and progressing fast.

This includes works in the Etruscan and Italian Halls, and the gilded Salon Carre. A major restoration of the ancient Egyptian tomb chapel of Akhethotep from 2400BC is also underway.

“When the museum reopens, everything will be perfect for its visitors — this Sleeping Beauty will have had the time to powder her nose,” said Elisabeth Antoine-Konig, Artifacts Department Curator. “Visitors will be happy to see again these now well-lit rooms with polished floors and remodeled display cases.”

Initially, only visitors with pre-booked reservations will be granted entry in line with virus safety precautions.

Those who cannot wait are still able to see the Louvre’s treasure trove of art in virtual tours online.

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Adamson reported from Leeds, England

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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