Louvre's attendance last year dropped to 1986 levels

Covid continued to impact on French museum visits, but the government provided a much-needed financial safety net

Since the Covid crisis, the Louvre's visitor numbers have dropped to 1980s levels © Irina Lediaeva

Since the Covid crisis, the Louvre's visitor numbers have dropped to 1980s levels © Irina Lediaeva

The Musée du Louvre welcomed only 2.8 million visitors last year, less than 30% of its pre-Covid record levels when it received around ten million. The Louvre has not seen such low figures since 1986, before the opening of the glass pyramid and the Grand Louvre project which steadily boosted attendance over the past four decades.

The figure, released today by the museum, is almost the same as for the previous year, but French museums were closed for one month less in 2021 (from 1 January to mid-May) than in 2020.

An official source at the culture ministry says that general attendance at French museums dropped for the second year by 60-70% compared with the pre-Covid period. With the rise of the Omicron variant, hopes have been dashed that attendance in 2022 could rise to 50% of the normal rate.

The Pompidou Center also announced a drop, counting 1.5 million visits last year, compared with 3.5 million in 2018 (around half went to the Modern art museum in the complex). Nonetheless, this is a rise of 65% over 2020, which can be partly attributed to its Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition, which chalked up almost 300,000 ticket sales.

The Orsay museum received one million people, a 30% rise compared with 2020, with a notable return of European visitors who made up half of the visits. Its Soutine/De Kooning: Conversations in Paint exhibition attracted 200,000 entries. The 2019 figure for the Orsay Museum was a record 3.6 million visitors.

More than 60% of the Louvre visitors were French, two-thirds of them from Paris and its surrounding areas. Only 6% were from the US and the same percentage came from Germany. Just 2% travelled from the United Kingdom. Visitors from Asia have virtually disappeared.

Before the Covid crisis, Americans represented 20% of Louvre visitors, followed by Chinese tourists, who accounted for between 8% and 10% of entries. However, the Louvre says it saw a rise in visitors last October and November, at a time when a sanitary pass was required to enter the museum. The proportion of local visitors also meant a rise of free entries (55% of the total), affecting the museum’s incomes.

Over 2020 and 2021, French museums were closed for almost a year by the government, longer than any country in the world, but the state provided strong financial support throughout.

The Louvre’s revenues fell by €80m in 2021 compared with 2019. The state compensated for €70m and added €40m from its mega "recovery plan".

The museum still plans two major exhibitions this year, one on Egypt and the kingdom of Nubia from May to July, and another on still life throughout the ages from October to January 2023.