The security staff of the Louvre plans to strike on Friday in protest of the dysfunctional management of crowds flocking to the museum’s new blockbuster Johannes Vermeer exhibition.
Since opening last month, the exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting — which features ten of Vermeer’s three dozen known paintings alongside works by his contemporaries — has drawn record numbers of visitors, including more than 9,000 people on its first day and some 40,000 during its first week. The crowds overwhelmed the museum’s new special exhibitions infrastructure — which was launched at the same time the exhibition opened — and caused bottlenecks throughout the museum as visitors queued to enter the Napoleon Hall, where the show is installed and which can only accommodate 250 visitors at any one time.
In response to the crisis, the Louvre is now requiring visitors to reserve timed entry tickets online. But the new measures put in place on Monday have not alleviated the concerns of the museum’s security staff, who plan to strike on Friday if the situation hasn’t improved.
In a letter to Louvre President Jean-Luc Martinez, the secretary general of the union that represents many of France’s museum workers, Françoise Pinson, said that Louvre security staff “are suffering constant physical and verbal aggression,” which are “making it difficult for them to exercise their function.” The letter places blame for the tense situation squarely on the Louvre administration, stating that “the mediocre management of fluctuating crowds and reservations” is posing “major psycho-social risks” to workers.
“We should be happy to see that crowds can also show up for an Old Masters exhibition, and not just for contemporary shows,” a Louvre spokesperson told the Art Newspaper, adding that the museum hopes to reduce wait times for entering the Vermeer exhibition to no more than 45 minutes.
Louvre workers, like all self-respecting (and salaried) French citizens, are accustomed to striking occasionally. In 2013, workers at the world’s most popular museum went on strike in protest of an out-of-control pickpocketing problem in the institution’s galleries and public spaces.