Mona Lisa > Louvre ?

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 9. Art & Place, Paris by Howard1 Comment

If New York is the center of finance and art, then Paris is the center of pure art, and even purer art. When talking about the “heartbeat” of New York, one would easily think of Wall Street, Empire State Buildings, and Central Park. If you ask people, who have never been to Paris, for how they imagine Paris to be, they would one way or another bring up art.

Before I arrived here, Paris for me is no more than three things: The Eiffel Tower, the Seine, and the Louvre. Eiffel Tower stands for Paris’ modernity. It’s a symbol of progress and development. From all the Palace in the east side all the way to this iron giant, changes are seen in time and space. The Seine stands for the nature of Paris. Almost every city, no matter big or small, well-developed or not, was built on nature. The Seine, flowing through Paris, represents Paris’ inclusion of both nature and kingdom. And finally, the Louvre, as the largest art museum and a historic monument in France, infers Paris’ depth in culture and art.

Numerous people every season come to Paris to just to see these three things. But for the last one, the Louvre, I am not sure if they come primarily for the grand museum itself and secondly for the Mona Lisa or the other way round. If Mona Lisa is a collection in the Louvre, would people still come all the way here to just see, for example, Venus de Milo, Great Sphinx, or Liberty Leading the People? Maybe yes, but the Louvre with Mona Lisa in it is certainly more appealing than the Louvre without. With the privilege of NYU ID, I have so far been to the Louvre several times. The first time I went, I did not have that much previous knowledge on The louver and the collections themselves, I simply look at the collections wherever my feet took me to. And whenever there was a crowd, always the case, I know I was about to see something famous according to common knowledge. And usually, my realization would be: “oh I think I have definitely seen this somewhere else!” and pretend that I really appreciate this art. At this kind of moment, I was always ashamed. Ashamed for that I’m no different from all other tourists who come to Museum not for art itself, but for that specific collection. There is a difference: people who come here for art try to learn the collections, whether it is to understand it, appreciate it, or even criticize it. “Tourists” come for a proof. A proof of “been there done there”, and later it adds on their resume of travel experience. That’s why tourists always squeeze into the crowd to see Mona Lisa so they can take a picture of that, and later tell people “I’ve seen it! It is ugly!”. People will then know that this person has been to the Paris and seen the “greatest” artwork of all time. This actually makes sense. If tourists go into the Louvre and take a picture of paintings by Eugene Delacroix, and later brag about it to their friends: “I’ve seen Delacroix’s journal!”, I think their friends would mostly be bewildered by this ‘unusual’ name and ask: “Da Vinci you mean?” (No offense to Delacroix).

And for me? I will just honestly admit that I have not yet seen her. If they assume that by “her” I’m referring to Mona Lisa, I think Venus would get offended.


  1. Hi Howard,

    I really enjoyed the overall content in your post and the style with how it was written. The ending line is great, and really ties into the theme of appreciating the “underrated” masterpieces that are often overlooked by the “Mona Lisa’s” of the art world. There really is something to be said when a city as diverse and amazing as Paris can be lumped into three narrow characterizations that are present manly for tourists. I had know idea that the Louvre was the largest art museum in France; in actuality, the only thing I did know was that the Mona Lisa was there.

    By the way, that is an incredible photo that you captured outside the Louvre.

Leave a Comment