The Mona Lisa Effect

The Guardian recently published an article about the Mona Lisa, saying how more people go to see it so that they can say that they’ve seen it rather than see it because they want to actually appreciate it as a piece of art.

I saw the Mona Lisa for the first time about two months ago. It’s very small, very dark, enclosed in a plastic box mounted on the wall and people are kept about three metres away from it by a barrier.

They say the eyes follow you around the room, but to be honest, it’s so small and you’re so far away that with everyone else there you can’t really tell.

What really got me about that Guardian article (which is actually worth reading, by the way) is just how amazingly true it is. The Mona Lisa is in a room at the end of the Grand Gallery (where the curator of the Louvre is found dead at the beginning of The Da Vinci Code, if you’re that way inclined), and you could spend weeks in there alone, but every now and again you see a little sign pointing to the door at the end with the words “La Joconde” on it, teasing you and urging you on; so for the first two thirds you tend to get people actually looking at the paintings (I freely admit I can’t remember if there are featured artists there or not, but there are a good few da Vincis, Raphaels and so on) but in the final third it’s almost impossible to see anyone taking even a cursory glance at the paintings around them as they head determindly towards the next room.

It’s all a bit sad really, as you watch people arrive, take a glance, take an obligatory picture and then trudge off; you hope that at least some of them came for reasons other than this.