Fright at the museum as strike halts £17m unveiling


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The Independent Culture

The grand re-opening of the world's finest collection of Impressionist paintings has been blocked by striking staff at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Talks were under way yesterday to try to rescue a two-day free opening of the museum this weekend after a two-year renovation costing €20m (£17m). This included reconstructing the galleries housing the French state collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art. The Prime Minister, François Fillon, inaugurated the new galleries on 12 October.

The museum, converted from a railway station on the Left Bank of the Seine in 1986, had planned to publicly unveil the long-awaited new home for the Impressionist collection on Thursday. Three staff unions blocked the re-opening, and were again on strike yesterday, to protest against a planned 10 per cent cut in jobs.

There were fears yesterday that the Musée d'Orsay would stay closed this weekend, despite parts of it having remained open throughout the reconstruction.

The project "Revoir Orsay" is the first major renovation of the museum since it opened. The space allocated to the Impressionists on the fifth floor had previously been criticised for being cramped and dark.

The museum's total exhibition space has been expanded by 2,000sq metres, allowing works to be displayed that had previously been kept in storage. The Orsay's directors hope to increase the annual number of visitors from three million to four million.

Frédéric Sorbier, secretary of the CGT-Culture union, told The Independent that the strikes were partly over security fears. "The management are increasing visitor numbers and reducing the number of staff," Mr Sorbier said. "It will not be possible to maintain levels of security and the visitor's experience will suffer."

The museum's Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection, including some of the best-known works by Eduard Manet, Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne, had been on temporary display on the ground floor.