Beyoncé and Jay-Z help Louvre museum break visitor record in 2018

More than 10m visited Paris museum, with interest boosted by music video filmed there

The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, broke all ticket office records last year with more than 10 million people viewing its Paris collection of fine arts and antiquities, boosted by foreign tourists and the interest in Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s music video filmed there.

The 10.2 million people who came to the museum in 2018 marked a 25% rise in visitors, beating the previous record of 9.7 million visitors in 2012. It is the highest number for a museum of its kind, ahead of the National Museum of China and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The rise was due in part to international tourists returning to Paris after large numbers stayed away in the years after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks. Foreigners made up almost three-quarters of visitors to the Louvre; the biggest number of foreign visitors were from the US, followed by China. But 2.5 million French people also visited, including increasing numbers of schoolchildren, as outings to tourist sites had been limited after the terrorist attacks that struck the country in recent years.

The Louvre has managed to maintain its high numbers of young visitors – more than 50% are under 30 – and was helped by the success of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s video for Apeshit last summer, which was shot in the museum and featured key works, including the Mona Lisa and Jacques-Louis David’s masterpiece, The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine.

A still from the video for Apeshit
A still from the video for Apeshit, featuring the Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine (1804), by Jacques-Louis David. Photograph: Youtube

The video, viewed more than 150m times online, was seen as an important comment on the representation of power in art, and on race and colonialism, as well as being a conversation starter for young visitors. It led the museum to create a special visitor guide based on the video, which was a success and gave the permanent collection what one museum worker called the feeling of a “cool brand”.

“It’s clear that 2018 was a remarkable year for the international reputation of the Louvre,” the museum’s director, Jean-Luc Martinez, told French radio. “The Beyoncé video, like the opening of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, ensured that the Louvre was talked about across the world, and one of the consequences of that is the spectacular rise in visitor numbers last year.”

This year the museum is hoping to bring in more young visitors by adding free night-time visits on the first Saturday of the month.

The museum’s success in 2018 was also helped by major exhibitions, in particular a spectacular retrospective of the 19th century artist Eugène Delacroix. This year’s unprecedented Leonardo da Vinci exhibition – part of a Europe-wide commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance master’s death – is expected to attract large numbers.

The museum also said the rise in visitors had been helped by the vast refurbishment of the entry and ticket office, funded in part through agreement with the Abu Dhabi branch, as well as online ticket sales that had reduced waiting times.

The museum said the gilets jaunes anti-government demonstrations in central Paris in late November and December had not affected visitor numbers. The protests had caused the museum to close on one Saturday only, it said.


Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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