When I was a kid I thought all the paintings on view in the Louvre Museum were housed in the glass pyramid that stands central to the grounds of the Louvre Palace. A bit like once thinking a piece of Hubba Bubba if swallowed takes 7 years to digest, I never questioned my logic.
Alright, I fib – I’d actually decided on both of the above pretty much right up until the very day I took a trip to the world’s, like, you know, most visited Art Museum.
It’s fair to say the semi-intelligent part of my brain didn’t consider how even the French, who easily pack in so much taste to their little round cheeses, could squeeze in all those art works and objets – only ahem 400, 000 altogether – into the vitreous 3D-triangled area, that is no bigger than a common or garden jumbo bouncy castle, to give you a dimensional idea.
Another thing that failed to create doubt was the lack of ever seeing anyone move around the transparent pyramid in photographs and video clips. Why were there never any kids cupping their mouths up to the glass leaving a slobbery slaver?
Or perhaps the windows were like those in old ambulances? You can see out but never see in. Or to coin Agatha Christie, did they do it with mirrors?
Shattering my glacial illusions, our entrée was an apparently very conventional way of arriving at a premier league museum – via the underground shopping mall.
The queues are something else and regardless of where you stand in line, there’s a recurrent feeling of being in the gangway, as folk cut across your toes enough times to leave you wondering if an invisible cloak is less Marvel and more fitting.
The French don’t have a penchant for queuing cordially, hence you have to keep your wits about you. Turning to have a look at the merchandise, diverting your eyeballs from the straight ahead for more than a few seconds can land you behind a newly appeared hoard of parentless school kids and the odd, not so ethical nun.
Once past security and all the other wee faffy bits, the Louvre experience enfolds into a truly beautiful thing. Halls and halls upon five floors of Italian and Spanish paintings that each could fit snug to the Barrowland dancefloor, Greek and Roman antiquities, sculptures and decorative art, treasures from all parts of the world.
Religion in battle, battle in religion – wherever you look there is something of both. I found myself strolling through rooms languidly, pretending to know a thing or two about a thing or two, all in avoidance of the philistine on a smart phone guise.
Excitement rises once aboard the first floor, and as luck would have it to room 7, where the most famous of them all resides. It’s an encounter, within an experience, wrapped up in a happening.
The enigmatic Mona Lisa, with her no eyebrows and passport photo anti-smile, is undoubtedly the main attraction round these parts. Mounted behind her thief proof glass, I imagine that if you attempted to cop a feel, 5000 volts would whizz through you, such is the reverence she’s concocted in her time.
You can’t help feel a bit sorry for the other artist’s work on display in the same vicinity, as none of it seems to get looked at, let alone a look in. Strangely, Mona’s situed in a much smaller room in comparison to the vastness of the halls either side, which only adds to the energy, the area having less room to ventilate.
The elements are also conducive to folk randomly standing on your shoelaces, as once near the middle of the room you’re catapulted into the united nations throng of tourists surging after our Mona.
In the age of 4G, Smart-Link(ing) and wireless photo sharing, there’s a click and run agendum that conveyor belts its way through this room. Wriggling our way to the front, patience is a virtue as it takes time to reach a clear view of the painting, which seems altogether small scaled compared to what you walk past to get to it.
I stood there embracing my momentary clear path just before being herded on by overly efficient security. Which is when it hits me. It’s not the Mona Lisa that is the most interesting feature in the room, nor even the looks on faces as they look in her direction. It’s the way folk go about capturing the moment.
Not with their own eyes do they take in the world’s most famous piece of art, nor with their mouths do they discuss what’s mounted before them. It’s the hands that do the talking, while fingers do the clicking.
I stood and watched a young Italian woman encroach the barrier with her boyfriend, her iPhone already switched to camera. Round she spins, preening her hair as she hands him the bejazzled device. She poses, he clicks. She checks, he clicks another. And all the time she never looks Mona in the eye. Hardly gives her the time of day in fact.
She’s bagged her moment, not in her mind’s eye, but in digital format. She utters something about a signale debole which I assume is some-thing to do with poor phone reception. With a double flick of the thumb on the screen, her satisfied mush suggests she’s just got a new Facebook profile pic. You wonder if that bitesize will last nearly as long as the 500 years Di Vinci’s original has hung around for.
At that, it was time to slip out the side exit, taking one last look around at the mass of faces staring up at the cameras at the end of outstretched arms. Click, file, share… click, file, share…
Making my way back into the real world through the pyramid via an escalator – crushing my dimensional illusions, yet in a good way – my last thought of the experience was to really wonder if Leonardo would prefer to like, share or comment…