Museums France

Louvre's director makes unblocking pyramid bottleneck a priority

Work due to start on Paris museum's entrance, which was never designed for ten million plus visitors a year

The pyramid was designed for half the number of people who now visit

Work to overhaul the Louvre’s pyramid entrance is due to start in June, The Art Newspaper has learned. Jean-Luc Martinez, the new director of the Paris museum, has decided to unblock the infamous bottleneck at the entrance before creating new galleries of Byzantine art or refurbishing existing ones. Last month he revealed that he had decided not to go ahead and create a Byzantine department, which was planned by his predecessor.

The pyramid entrance designed by I.M. Pei opened in 1989. A museum spokeswoman confirms that the Chinese-American architect, who has just celebrated his 97th birthday, will be consulted about the changes. Part of the Grande Louvre renovation project, the great glass pyramid was designed for a museum that attracted 4.5 million visitors a year. Its attendance has since doubled and the museum expects that figure will continue to rise.

The changes to the layout of the foyer area in the Cour Napoleon beneath the glass pyramid are due to take three years to complete. Improvements include doubling the capacity of access to the pyramid and the Passage Richelieu. Ticketing desks will be moved and signage improved to help reduce the length of queues and overcrowding, we understand.

Martinez has just visited the US where he met fellow directors, including Thomas Campbell, the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, which is also giving its entrance a facelift, as well as Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), who has a campus-wide renewal in his sights. When in Los Angeles Martinez visited Lacma as well as the Getty Center and Getty Villa.

Meanwhile, this week the “Birth of a Museum” (2 May-28 July) opens at the Louvre, featuring a selection of works acquired for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The Gulf satellite of the French museum is due to open next year. Designed by Jean Nouvel, its vast steel dome, beneath which the museum's pavilions will be clustered, is now taking shape on Saadiyat Island's culture district.

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