Musée du Louvre.

MY visit to the Louvré had my legs akin to un-set jelly by the end  -and I barely scratched the surface. I think the most impressive thing about the museum is its scale, and ease of navigation. If you have a good look around outside before you go in, it’s easy to figure out where you are in the scheme of the epic structure. I’ll be brief, as this place is almost a mandatory stop for anyone visiting Paris- so most of the detail would be known from you either a.) visiting the place yourself, b.) reading about it or seeing pictures/movies/documentaries about it, or c.) all of the above.

I walked through the amazing courtyard and on into the museum just after it opened, and made my way straight to the French, Greek and Italian sculptors.

Something I find immensely fascinating about ancient sculpture is the fact that the facial expressions are mostly the same with women, and always very similar with men. I’m always curious about someone’s personality, but the classically sculpted faces don’t seem to give much away. Not ‘til Daumier did the real personalities (flattering or not) vividly come through in sculpture, and in caricature. (Everyone has their opinion; that’s mine.)

The hours flew by like minutes, and after looking at hundreds of the most amazing paitings before I knew it I’d arrived at the most notorious of all - the Mona Lisa.

There’s something very disappointing about the way this is set up, and truth be told it really soured the experience for me.

You walk into a large room, filled with some of the most incredible paintings on the grandest of scale, then in the back third of the room is a wooden semi-circular barrier, surrounding the massive slab of wall housing the glass-encased painting. There are some bollards, with a fabric border similar to that of airport queues creating a semi-circular ‘standing zone’.

Whether the painting behind the glass is indeed the real Da Vinci original is a thought that popped into my head almost immediately. They most likely have the real one in a metre-thick vault underground and nobody would know. After all - it’s encased in glass on a big plaster slab.. it must be real.

But that aside, the painting, as is now fairly well-known, is quite small compared to what is usually expected from seeing the painting ad nauseum on promotional enlargements/prints etc.  In fact it makes the big slab look kind of silly really, but the grandiose presentation is a result of it’s fame, not its size.

The disappointing part of the set up is that there’s no real order to how you can view the peice.

If indeed you’d like to stand, gaze, marvel and wonder at arguably the most talked-about painting of the last century, you can’t.

Well, you can, but you’d better be wearing padding.

There was an endless throng of teenagers, various loud, rude, tactless tourists elbowing their way through the crowd like they were at a rock concert, only to take what can only be plainly be described as “a photo of a fucking painting” which bluntly destroys the mystique, and any pleasure you thought you’d have by finally seeing the Mona Lisa with your own eyes.

After patiently wading through the sea of people for a good 5 minutes, I would have stood there for less than 10 seconds before being shoved out of the way by two adults, pushing their way through to show their 3 and 5 year olds.

I’m sure they’ll remember seeing it. Well done.

The father took out his digital camera and clumsily fumbled around with the buttons trying to turn it on, then zoomed in, squinted at the screen, zoomed in more, was shaking from all of the people knocking past him, then just as he took a photo (with flash), he was pushed out the way by an African American girl with a mobile phone, loudly proclaiming as she took a photo with said phone “Hey checkiddout ohmah god! It’s the LisaLisa!”

The man looked at his wife, who was trying to keep the two children from running under the barrier, then rolled his eyes and started again. He bent forward to take the photo, zooming in and out to get the right whatever, and then took another photo (with red-eye reducing flash this time. bless.) and then looked at his wife again, and said “Got it.”

Got it? Got what? You know you can download that picture from the internet if you really want it, or perhaps buy one of the 52 variations in the gift store out the front. And it’s likely going to be better quality than the shaky photo you just took - which in all likelihood turned out as a white flash reflecting off the glass casing.

No sooner did they elbow their way back around to the side exit, (not even taking a moment to actually stand and look at the painting itself) than I was pushed up against the fabric barrier, toppling the bollards over by a throng of Japanese tourists, all of whom wanted to take the identical photograph of the painting. Then another pimply teenager with a mobile phone camera, then another. (To his credit, one of the Japanese tourists actually wanted his photo in front of the painting. One.)

I can understand people wanting to have their photo taken in front of it. Yes - to prove you were actually there omfg wow get out of town you’re famous. But these unrelenting waves of mindless tourist zombies turn what is meant to be a leisurely, relaxing and god-forbid, enjoyable day of taking in some of the world’s finest art, into an ordeal.

I went back three times to try and just get a look at the painting, maybe stand for 30 seconds - possibly a full minute without being shoved out of the way. Fail.

I gave up.

Fuck it, I’ll rent the DVD.

I finished the day wandering through to find my favourites - a lot of Ingres, Delacroix, Gericault and the like. I remember writing essays on these pieces when I was 17 - focusing so much on all of the esoterics and technical qualities that I never really just stood and looked at them, waiting to see how they affected me.

The greatest thing I love about art is the way it affects each person differently. There’s no right or wrong way to view art - it’s like wine;you know what you like.

I really enjoyed most of the time at the Louvre, but something needs to be done about that Mona Lisa exhibit. Seriously.

Yes, it’s their biggest draw-card, and it pulls in millions of people from around the world, but surely an orderly queue wouldn’t be too much to expect of an art gallery? It’s France - the queues move quickly. Surely it’s not too much of an imposition on the people who want to see the painting.

I finished off the day trying to order duck at a French restaurant. I think in fact I ordered the QE2, by confusing “canard” with “Cunard.”

Meh. C’est la vie.