Should We Take Down the Mona Lisa?

One New York Times writer says yes.

Mona Lisa By Leonardo Da Vinci. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Mona Lisa By Leonardo Da Vinci. (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / November 6, 2019 1:37 pm

The Mona Lisa is, of course, one of the most famous — if not the most famous — works of art in the world, and naturally that means it attracts a huge amount of people on a daily basis at the Louvre, leading to overcrowding. But what, if anything, should be done about that? In a controversial new New York Times piece, Jason Farago argues we should take the famed da Vinci painting down.

“Some 80 percent of visitors, according to the Louvre’s research, are here for the Mona Lisa — and most of them leave unhappy,” Farago writes. “Content in the 20th century to be merely famous, she has become, in this age of mass tourism and digital narcissism, a black hole of anti-art who has turned the museum inside out.” To see the painting, he notes, “you must line up in a hideous, T.S.A.-style snake of retractable barriers that ends about 12 feet from the Leonardo — which, for a painting that’s just two and a half feet tall, is too far for looking and way too far for a good selfie.”

Of course, just because something of great beauty and cultural significance also happens to be a tourist trap doesn’t mean we should remove it entirely; the Eiffel Tower would have been bulldozed long ago by that logic. But Farago isn’t so much arguing for getting rid of the iconic portrait entirely so much as relocating it to better accommodate the large crowds.

“She needs her own space. Build a pavilion for her, perhaps in the Tuileries, that is optimized for the crowds,” he suggests. “Connect it to the main museum via the underground mall known as the Carrousel du Louvre, and sell a single ticket for both locations. Set up prime selfie stations, and let more curious visitors learn about the mysterious Gioconda with supplementary exhibits. Get it up in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Let Kylian Mbappé inaugurate it, maybe with Carla Bruni alongside. Sell macarons.”

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