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Six Sundays: Louvre cuts back on free entry scheme

6 February 2014

The Louvre, the most visited museum in the world, is doing away with a beloved Parisian institution: free entry on the first Sunday of every month. At least during high season, April to September. While this only adds up to six days of the year, it is seen as a blow by many, and a petition set up by Louvre pour tous (the website, run by Bernard Hasquenoph, that broke the story on Sunday) has garnered over a thousand signatures in a matter of days.

The Louvre was the most visited museum of 2013

The Louvre was the most visited museum of 2013 Photo: Joaquim Alves Gaspar (Creative Commons)

As part of a raft of budgetary measures, the decision to scrap free Sundays was taken in November 2013 and announced on Monday 3 February.

The Louvre has seen an incredible increase is visitors in recent years: 9.3 million in 2013 compared with 5 million in 2001. Indeed, free Sundays have become a bit of a circus: waiting in line for hours only to be rewarded with a museum experience that is less than satisfactory for the public, staff and artworks.

Crowds at the Louvre: visitor numbers have increased dramatically in recent years

Crowds at the Louvre: visitor numbers have increased dramatically in recent years Photo: Jason Scott (Creative Commons)

But abolishing free Sundays strikes at the heart of one of the Louvre’s founding principles: culture for all. When the royal collections were claimed as the property of the nation during the Revolution, the museum opened free to the general public and some form of free access has been available most of the time since. Six Sundays a year might not sound like much but coming from France’s most important national museum, many think it’s a slight to the democratisation of culture.

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2 comments

  1. Elfie Harris Feb 9 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Regular free access should be available to the culture inside all museums. Just as free schooling is available to children in most cultures access to knowledge of art, sciences and history should be available to those who cannot afford to pay. If people stand in line for hours to be able to see the art the Louvre contains it means that it is really important to them and there should be a universal right for people to access the cultural heritage contained in museums.

  2. Great post. For one thing, the Louvre expedition in Zola’s l’Assommoir – a crucial episode in the novel – wouldn’t have been plausible without it offering some form of free entry. We’d thus be deprived this memorable bit of (very condescending) irony:

    ‘They walked around the salon. Gervaise asked the meaning of one of the pictures, the Noces de Cana; Coupeau stopped before La Joconde, declaring that it was like one of his aunts.’

    You can read the entire chapter here: http://www.authorama.com/l-assommoir-3.html

    Zola might have been the most socially conscious (read: ‘snobbish’) writer of the 19th century. These passages mark the birth of right-wing art criticism.

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