Louvre workers strike as museum declared world’s most popular

It’s once again been declared the world’s most popular museum, but that may not be a good thing for the Louvre in Paris.

The museum broke its own record in 2018, welcoming a whopping 10.2 million visitors and claiming the top spot in an index of the world’s most-visited museums.

But the Louvre’s uptick in visitors is proving too much for many of its workers, and strikes by reception and security staff over the number of tourists flooding through its doors have hit opening hours throughout the week.

“The Louvre is suffocating,” the workers’ union said in a statement. “The public has increased by more than 20% since 2009, (but) the palace has not grown,” it added. “Today the situation is untenable.”

The museum was closed on Monday and opened later than advertised on Wednesday, due to a meeting with the disaffected workers. Visitors have queued outside the building throughout the week, and those without bookings have been turned away.

But as tensions with its workers rumble on, the museum’s bottom line is looking healthy.

The Louvre broke its 2012 attendance record last year, marking a dramatic recovery from a sharp downturn in visits in 2017 that was attributed to a general plunge in tourism in Paris.

The social media buzz around Beyoncé and Jay Z’s music video filmed at the museum may have played into that spike, authors of the 2018 Museum Index say.

The report, published by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Economics practice at AECOM, also highlights the success of an exhibition of the work of Eugène Delacroix — the most popular temporary exhibition in the Louvre’s history.

But while visitor numbers rose at the Louvre, overall attendance was relatively flat among the top 20 museums in the world last year, according to the TEA Museum Index.

Attendance grew among the top 20 by just 0.1% from 2017 to 2018. The top museums collectively welcomed 108.1 million visitors last year.

The National Museum in China, the world’s second most popular museum, drew nearly 8.6 million visitors in 2018, a nearly 7% increase.

Rounding out the top five are The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (No. 3); Vatican Museums in Vatican City (No. 4); and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC (No. 5).

World’s most popular museums in 2018

1. Louvre, Paris, France

2. National Museum of China, Beijing, China

3. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, United States

4. Vatican Museums, Vatican City

5. National Air and Space Museum, Washington, United States

6. British Museum, London, United Kingdom

7. Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom

8. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

9. Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom

10. American Museum of Natural History, New York, United States

11. National Museum of Natural History, Washington, United States

12. National Gallery of Art, Washington, United States

13. China Science Technology Museum, Beijing, China

14. State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

15. Zhejiang Museum, Hangzhou, China

16. Victoria <><><><><><><><><>& Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom/pp17. Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain/pp18. National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan/pp19. National Museum of American History, Washington, United States/pp20. Nanjing Museum, Nanjing, China/p