Art | March 7, 2021 6:00 am

Cy Twombly Foundation Sues Louvre Over Gallery Renovations

Wall paint doesn't usually lead to legal battles, but here we are

Louvre ceiling
An immense work by American painter Cy Twombly at the Salle des Bronzes, one of the oldest sections of the Louvre.
FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images

In 2010, artist Cy Twombly painted a mural on the ceiling of the Salle des Bronzes gallery within the Louvre. The gallery in question was once home to a number of objects dating back to ancient Greece, and the expansive mural featured imagery that at once hearkened back thousands of years and felt resolutely contemporary. At the time, Twombly’s work made history. Now, it’s prompted a lawsuit.

Writing at The New York Times, Doreen Carvajal has more details on just what prompted the lawsuit. In this case, the issue at hand has to do with the color of the walls surrounding the mural, which the museum recently repainted a very different color.

A recent report in ARTnews pointed out the changes to the space: “the marble floor was replaced with parquet, and the walls were repainted red, marking a dramatic contrast from their original shade of white.” Place something painted blue — as the mural is — next to something painted red and it will look very different from a juxtaposition with something painted white.

The Times reports that the Cy Twombly Foundation learned of the renovated gallery due to, in Carvajal’s words, “a clandestine photo of the revamped gallery” sent via a text message to the Foundation’s president.

The Foundation’s goal here is to have the changes to the gallery — which were designed to restore the space to what it was like in the late 19th century — undone. Among their allies is Henri Loyrette, a former president of the Louvre, who referred to the changes as “disfiguring” in a statement.

It’s a jarring debate situated somewhere between the worlds of artistic vision and institutional maintenance. It’s also not hard to see the points made by both sides; this is not, unfortunately, something where there’s a clear or cut-and-dried answer.

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