Louvre in India, minus Mona Lisa

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  • Published 1.02.12

New Delhi, Jan. 31: If your pocket doesn’t permit you to visit the Louvre, don’t despair. Louvre will come to you.

The Musée du Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, and the Indian government have signed a memorandum of understanding under which the Paris monument has agreed to hold collaborative exhibitions with the culture ministry.

“We have been communicating with the Louvre Museum for some time now. As a result of our communication, the director of the Louvre Museum, Henri Loyerette, had come to India last month. We had discussed the broad contours of the memorandum of understanding during his visit,” Vijay Madan, the joint secretary in the ministry, told The Telegraph.

In India, the National Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art will be the main collaborators. The National Museum has, however, been headless now for over five years, with the post of museum director-general being handled as additional charge by various bureaucrats since 2007.

Sources said a committee with three Indian representatives and three from Louvre had been formed to decide on future activities under the collaboration plan, which also includes exchange of professionals.

But before art lovers in India smile at the thought of a glimpse of the enigmatic Mona Lisa, here’s something to transfix the curl of their lips.

Leonardo da Vinci’s painting or Michelangelo’s Dying Slave and several other masterpieces that the Paris museum is famous for are not coming to India anytime soon.

The Mona Lisa has been moved out of the Louvre only twice. The first time was from December 1962 to March 1963, when the French government lent it to America to be displayed in New York City and Washington. In 1974, the painting was exhibited in Tokyo and Moscow.

Before the 1962-63 tour, the value of the painting was assessed, for insurance purposes, at $100 million. However, no insurance was taken out. Instead, money was spent on security for the work, now kept in a special enclosure on the first floor of the 60,600sqm Paris museum, which opened in August 1793 and now houses nearly 35,000 objects.

“Bringing these masterpieces would mean several hundred crores of rupees in investment. We don’t know whether it would be worth it,” said a senior official in the culture ministry.

Loyerette, who took over the Louvre in 2001, introduced policy changes to allow the museum to lend and borrow more works than before. In 2006, the museum loaned 1,300 works. From 2006 to 2009, it lent works to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, and received $6.9 million in payment.