A New York Times Critic Suggested the Mona Lisa Be Taken Down

He says the painting is ruining the Louvre.

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I've been lucky enough to go to Paris twice, and both times I tried to see the Mona Lisa. In winter 2016, I waited in line for two hours outside the Louvre in the frosty French air before finally getting access to the most famous painting in the world. I slowly elbowed my way through the tourists until I got to the barricade, where I took five seconds and snapped the selfie you see below. In spring 2019, I returned to the museum, but when I got there, a sign out front said the world's largest art museum was too crowded to let in more people for the day. There are 782,910 square feet in the Louvre, and every inch was crowded.

Or more likely, the tens of thousands of daily guests were crowded around the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most easily recognized piece of art in the world. Now Jason Farago, an art critic for the New York Times, is arguing that the painting should be taken down, as its place in the museum is ruining the experience of visiting the museum.

He offers some pretty great statistics in making his point. Last year, 10 million guests visited the Louvre, up a whopping 25 percent over 2017. Eighty percent of visitors say they came to see the Mona Lisa. And most of those new people come wielding smartphones with front-facing cameras, meaning the experience of seeing Leonardo da Vinci's work has changed drastically in a short time.

The rush has been so terrible that the museum's security staff actually went on strike, and a recent renovation means the painting is now kept 12 feet from visitors. "This is a gallery that makes the Spirit Airlines boarding process look like a model of efficiency, and offers about as much visual delight," Farago jokes.

It's understandable to get up in arms about his suggestion—how dare an art critic deny art from people who want to see it?—but Farago doesn't think the piece should be hidden away in storage. He merely suggests there should be an alternate method of display, like a pavilion just for the painting in the nearby Tuileries Garden. Either way, it sounds like something's gotta change. And it's probably not going to be selfie culture.

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