This past Jan.15th, over 200 artists, teachers, and students assembled outside the Louvre in Paris to protest the museum having stripped them of free entry. Last Sept. the museum did away with its policy of free entry for arts professionals and students, igniting a storm of disapproval. The “Louvre For All” protest was backed by 22 unions – including the two largest in France.
Demonstrators circulated handbills to tourists, explaining how the museum gives free entry to the employees of the museum’s corporate backers, such as oil company giant Total SA, while barring free entry to artists and students. Along with demanding that free entry for arts professionals be reinstated, activists are pressuring the Louvre do away with entry fees altogether.
Interviewed in Le Monde, the president of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette, seemed unmoved by the campaign. He simply noted that the museum is cheaper than museums in Europe and the US. Loyrette failed to mention that one of the greatest museums in the US, the Getty Museum of Los Angeles -is free. And how would the president of the Louvre react to news that the Swedish government has just declared permanent free entry to all of its museums?
On January 24th, the Swedish Parliament stated “all citizens have the right to culture” regardless of economic status. A royal decree then established free access to over 300 museums, galleries, and art centers, guaranteeing right of entry for Swedes and foreigners alike.
Clearly, the world’s art museums contain treasures that belong to all of humanity, and that collective heritage should not be on view only to those who can afford a ticket. The only recent mention of the Louvre in the US media concerns the French government allowing director Ron Howard to shoot his “The Da Vinci Code” movie on museum property. While Mr. Howard and his film’s star, Tom Hanks, will no doubt enjoy free entry to the Louvre… international artists and art students will not.