Letter: The Louvre: tourism on the grand scale

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Sir: Poor Andrew Graham-Dixon ('Try this for sheer size', 30 November). I sympathise. I, too, flat-footed through vast galleries of the new Richelieu wing of the Louvre on its opening day and was defeated by the acres of painted flesh as well as by the sheer scale. Being so vast, however, it does not need your critic's exaggeration. The new wing is indeed 22,000 square metres, but the British Museum, according to Le Monde, is larger on its own at 25,700 square metres. Smaller are the Washington National Gallery at 16,800 square metres and the Prado at 17,910 square metres. Larger still are the Vatican Museum, at 43,000 square metres, and the Metropolitan in New York, which is top with 58,820 square metres.

Andrew Graham-Dixon confuses the size of Le Grand Louvre with its latest wing. It is only if you add the Aile Richelieu to the 30,000-square-metre Louvre that you achieve Le Grand Louvre at 52,000 square metres. Of course, this is not enough for Mitterameses I. By 1997, Le Grand Louvre will emerge at 60,000 square metres - Paris first.

Yes, this costs millions in any currency, but I detect an acute business acumen. Quoting Le Monde again, the Louvre had 2.7 million visitors before the Pyramid (1988), four million after, in 1989, and 4.9 million in 1992. With the opening of the Richelieu wing, it is anticipated this will rise to 5.5 million. Sixty-four per cent of all visitors are foreign and 20 per cent descend in groups. We might have had something equally attractive for the tourist industry if we had kept Thatcherameses II, but what do we get with Majorameses III? Well, a demolished House and the three little converted rooms added to the National Portrait Gallery.

Yours sincerely,

ALFRED LESTER

London, NW11

1 December

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