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Friday, April 21, 2017, 14:07

In the mood for Louvre

By Chitralekha Basu

A meticulously selected bunch of exhibits from the world’s most-visited museum in Paris arrives in HK next week. Chitralekha Basu reports.

In the mood for Louvre
The glass pyramid entrance created by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei in the Cour Napoleon courtyard of the Louvre in Paris. (Photos provided to China Daily)

In 2016 the visitor turnout to the Louvre dropped by 15 percent. Then 7.3 million is not too bad a figure.

Back in 1682 when Emperor Louis XIV moved out of the Louvre Palace, turning his former residence into a repository of the royal collection of priceless paintings, sculptures and art objects, he probably did not envisage a day when the Louvre would become the world’s most-visited museum. And neither did the architects of the French Revolution who had decided that egalitarian principles should extend to the consumption of art as well as that of bread and hence decided to open public access to the royal collection, liberating the likes of the decapitated winged goddess Nike of Samothrace from the exclusive viewership by an elite audience. At that point it was difficult to imagine that one day, just as visitors from the world over would congregate at the Louvre, the museum, on  its part, would make a sustained and concerted effort to reach out to the world. 

In the mood for Louvre
The antique Egyptian sculpture of the seated scribe. (Provided To China Daily)

But then the Louvre had its gaze turned on the wide world outside the palace gates all along. The French collectors of the royal court had eclectic tastes, often looking outside their native territory and picking up art objects from across cultures, including highly-valued pieces from antiquity.

For the museum’s fans from across the world unable to head off to Paris just yet, the Louvre sometimes brings a meticulously selected bunch of exhibits from its collection over to nearer where they are. Beginning April 26, Hong Kong is going to be the lucky recipient of the Louvre’s global outreach program. Hundred and thirty exhibits may not sound like an astounding figure, given the Louvre contains more than 38,000 works of art. However, between them these treasures that go on show at Hong Kong Heritage Museum for the next three months are a narration in the history of the respect and patronage extended to art in France since the 12th century.

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