PARIS — Can face masks and T-shirts save the Louvre? Probably not, but maybe they can help keep the museum’s name alive while its doors remain closed.
Normally, the Louvre is one of the most visited museums in the world: 9.6 million people walked its corridors in 2019. But the coronavirus deprived it of foreign tourists and government decrees closed it to twice for nearly six months last year, a loss of 90 million euros (about $108 million) in revenue, according to the Louvre. Since last March, the museum, like other French cultural institutions, has remained closed indefinitely. (It opened last year from early July to late October.)
“We have to find new ways to make money,” said Adel Ziane, director of external relations at the Louvre. “The Covid crisis has made it more urgent than ever to diversify and promote the name of the Louvre.”
One of his answers is retail. Lots of retail.
On February 4, Uniqlo began selling a collection of Louvre clothing in its stores around the world, under a four-year licensing agreement with the museum. Peter Saville, an English graphic designer, splashed inventory numbers and museum slogans alongside artwork on t-shirts and sweatshirts.
Uniqlo’s two-minute promotional video for the line features Uniqlo-clad models walking through the galleries of the Louvre. The Louvre has produced its own short video featuring a museum official extolling the values of “universality and timelessness” that he shares with Uniqlo.
The Louvre has also collaborated with Casetify, a tech accessories company, to put the images of some of its most recognizable women – Mona Lisa, Venus, Liberty Leading the People – on iPhone cases, AirPods cases, grip mounts, wireless chargers and water bottles.
Maison Sarah Lavoine, a small boutique located near the Tuileries Garden, offers a fancy cushion and ceramic candlesticks inspired by the bases of statues in the garden.
During the pandemic, visits to the Louvre.fr site have exploded, according to the museum. But the Louvre has had to rely on an online umbrella site, Boutique de Musées, to sell its wares, bundling them with wares from museums like Versailles and the Musée d’Orsay. Thus, at the end of January, the Louvre created a distinct online identity with its own e-boutique.
“We wanted to take control, promote what we wanted, tell our own stories and reach the widest possible audience around the world,” said Yann Le Touher, head of patronage, brand image and commercial partnerships. of the Louvre. Louvre.fr is where you can find Louvre Swatches, a Louvre fragrance from L’Officine Universelle Buly; and Louvre Monopoly.
Merchandise expansion is just one of the ways the museum has gotten creative with fundraising.
In December, for the first time in its history, the museum held an auction with Christie’s and Drouot to raise funds to turn unused museum space into a 12,000 square foot educational and hands-on art “workshop.” for adults and children. On sale during the auction, works of art by Pierre Soulages and Jean-Michel Othoniel were donated; a watch from Vacheron Constantin (the winning bidder could choose a work of art from the museum to reproduce on the dial, although the Mona Lisa is prohibited 😉 and a variety of museum-related “experiences”.
An unidentified bidder paid €80,000 ($96,600) to be able to witness in person the process of removing the Mona Lisa from its case for its annual inspection.
In total, the auction brought in more than 2.3 million euros ($2.8 million). “Bidders from all over the world came together to show their support,” said Jean-Luc Martinez, director of the Louvre. “The desire for the Louvre is more alive than ever.”
Getting closer to popular culture is nothing new for the Louvre, which welcomes – often for high rental fees – filmmakers, videographers, photographers, fashion designers, artists.
For two nights in 2018, Beyoncé and Jay-Z took over the galleries, stairs, hallways and main courtyard of the Louvre to produce a music video that has been viewed more than 200 million times on YouTube.
More recently, the creators of the Netflix series “Lupin” rented the museum for five days and five nights. And Louis Vuitton, because of its status as a major patron of the Louvre, has an exclusive system allowing it to access various museum spaces for its shows, which took place in the Cour Carrée outside and the Cour Marly under the glass roof ( The location for the next one, which will be revealed digitally on March 10, remains to be seen).
It’s all about buzz and bottom line; fees are negotiable.
“The cost of the museum depends on the project,” Ziane said. “Is it day or night? How can galleries? Do you want the Mona Lisa? Do you want an aerial view of the Pyramid? Prices can go up quite high. »
In the meantime, those who want to don Mona Lisa on their face can purchase a “Monna Pop” face mask with 16 brightly colored, pop-art images of her face for €9.90 on the Boutique de Musées website.
The website proclaims, “Cover your mouth and nose in style!