A group of about one-hundred protesters in Paris forced the Louvre to temporarily close on Friday, January 17. The demonstrators, a mix of Louvre staffers and representatives of other sectors, were striking over the French government’s proposal to change the current pension system by merging forty-two different private and public pension plans into one state-managed plan.
“Closing the Louvre to prevent tourists from visiting is very important because it’s the most visited museum in the world,” Christophe Benoit, a fifty-two-year-old employee of the French Ministry of Culture, told the New York Times. The protesters decision to target the museum may also have been a symbolic one since French President Emmanuel Macron gave his victory speech in front of I.M. Pei’s iconic glass pyramid after the 2017 presidential election.
A spokesperson for the museum said that all individuals who purchased advanced tickets to visit the museum on Friday would be reimbursed, but did not know whether the institution would be able to reserve additional viewings of its blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci show, which has been sold out for its entire run.
Christian Galani, who serves as a security guard at the Louvre, told the New York Times that workers have previously closed smaller exhibitions within the museum in an attempt to draw attention to the protest movement. Other museums which were forced to temporarily shut their doors as a result of nationwide strikes in December are the Musée d’Orsay, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon.
At the center of the controversy over Macron’s overhaul of the pension system is the question of whether simplifying the system will negatively affect seniors. According to Eurostat, France has one of the lowest rates of poverty among people who are sixty-five and older in the European Union and seniors benefit from one of the highest income replacement ratios among the bloc.