Night at the Louvre: don't ask to see the Mona Lisa

Tue Oct 6, 2009 7:13am EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Security guards roaming the Louvre museum at night encounter African masquerades, a ghostly dancer in a scuba diving mask, an equestrian statue that makes baby noises and crazed carnival kings armed with rubber ducks.

No, this is not the demented plot of a proposed sequel to Hollywood special effects blockbuster "Night at the Museum."

The world famous Louvre really is coming alive at night for an innovative show called "Babysitting Petit Louis," performed by a cast of three dancers, one singer, one actor and eight of the museum's real-life security guards and cloakroom staff.

The brains behind the project is South African choreographer Robyn Orlin, who is well known in contemporary dance circles for her witty pieces satirizing her country's post-apartheid struggles with racism and reconciliation.

Her show at the Louvre also uses humor to comment on a different set of issues: cultural elitism, the conservative attitude of major museums and the way visitors tend to treat the staff like furniture.

"It's about how the public never really thinks about who takes care of art. I think all the guards are very vital people and it's important to reawaken that for the public," Orlin told Reuters backstage.

The show kicks off at night, after the museum has closed, under the glass pyramid where visitors to the Louvre buy their tickets. The audience stands waiting in the dark until the eight guards arrive, shining flashlights, and chant a set of rules.

"It is strictly forbidden to ask only where are the toilets, where is the Mona Lisa, or where is the exit?" they sing in unison, referring to the Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that is the main attraction of the Louvre for many visitors.   Continued...

<p>Tourists visit a sculpture gallery at the Louvre Museum in Paris August 12, 2009. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen</p>