Staff members of the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, have voted to close the institution’s doors indefinitely as fears surrounding the coronavirus continue to rise. On Saturday, French government officials banned any indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people in an effort to impede the spread of the virus.
Last year the museum was visited by 9.6 million people, down slightly from its attendance record of 10.2 million visitors in 2018, most of them coming from other countries. The Paris landmark, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503–19) and countless other masterpieces, attracts tens of thousands of visitors daily.
A Louvre employee and staff union representative, Andre Sacristin, told the AP:
We regret this. It’s not our wish to close the Louvre. [...] What we want to welcome tourists is to have measures that protect them as well as us. [...] If tomorrow there is a case at the Louvre, we need to know the plan.
Some 250 workers at the Louvre, many of them guards, elected on Monday to keep refusing to work until the museum’s administration formalizes a coronavirus response plan. Louvre workers proposed wearing masks or requiring temperature checks for visitors; museum management continues to monitor the situation. Maxence Langlois-Berthelot, the museum’s managing director, said the institution is “keeping a close eye on the situation and is ready to take action as and when necessary.”
The spread of coronavirus in recent weeks has led to the closure of prominent art institutions around the world, including the Palazzo Ducale in Italy and the Mori Art Museum in Japan, as well as major changes to the global art market calendar. The 2020 edition of the Art Basel in Hong Kong fair was canceled because of the outbreak; Sotheby’s postponed and relocated its spring auctions in Hong Kong. France has reported 130 cases of the coronavirus, with the number steadily rising. It has not been confirmed when the Louvre will reopen its doors.