The Pyramids at The Louvre
By Candace Lyons
Published in ART TIMES December 2013
We are the pyramids at the Louvre and, yes, we know what most of you are thinking: we're ugly. Atrocious if we're to believe Marie Antoinette who is still around and prone to yammer — even decapitated. Did you just say, "But she never lived there?" Well, you're right. Nevertheless, she's one of those queens who considers every palace her palace and haunts this one because, travel being a hassle in those days, going all the way back to Versailles seemed silly when the Louvre was a mere hop, skip and a head roll from the public execution grounds. Thus here she is and either she had a really long neck or Henri Sanson set the guillotine blade high that day because she's still got her vocal cords and, boy, does she use them. (You should hear what she has to say about you visitors!)
But even if Marie finds eternal peace and departs to get on with her incarnations, we'd still know we're considered less than lovely precisely because of you visitors who are not shy about using your own vocal cords while touring the courtyard or, worse, waiting right beside us to get into the museum. Standing in line is boring, we'll grant you, but is criticising us, no holds barred, the only remedy you can come up with? Be aware, we understand all the languages the globe has to offer so, in French, English, Swahili or Croatian, we're constantly reminded that hardly anybody likes us, above all the local citizenry who can be as possessive — and disgruntled — as their ex-sovereign.
Okay, we'll concede that we clash — badly, in fact — with the architecture and its era. But ugly? Why ugly? We're made of glass and steel, pleasing materials that form an equally pleasing and time-honoured shape. Yet these are virtues you usually choose to ignore until you're inside and encounter the luckiest among us who got inverted so that sunlight can pass through to the underground level, something you at least seem to find very effective.
We others generally don't gain your approval until nightfall when we're illuminated from the interior, vastly improving our appearance. This is not an assumption on our part. One visitor called us, "a splendour of sparkling icebergs." We quote. It's true he was speaking Chinese and we know what you're thinking: probably a relative of I.M. Pei. But that's just pettiness, isn't it? Even if he was Pei's brother, be honest, how many of you get along with your siblings to the point you would feel obliged to say nice things about their creations, especially if they weren't around to hear you? Some of you, yes. But not all, admit it. Therefore we found our admirer's words marvellous, well chosen — and accurate. Let's face it, everyone is better looking with the right lighting.
Moreover, if we can cite what he said from memory, it's because he was so poetic and not because this was the only kind comment we've ever heard. There are, believe it or not, people who actually do like us. Oh, not passionately, but well enough and, sometimes, quite a bit. Fortunately, they have the courage to say so (given the opposition, 'courage' is the right word). If you've bet this almost never happens, you win but, consequently, it makes the days when it does even sweeter. A, "Wow, cool!" coming from a kid can leave us sparkling even in broad daylight and we proudly straighten — or slope — up until we're a good two inches taller (did you know we're expandable?)
Nonetheless, such moments being infrequent, we'd quit this courtyard if we could and go find someplace where we'd draw less attention. Like Egypt. Surrounded by miles and miles of trackless desert. A few camels, the occasional passing nomad to break the monotony but no more crowds of gawkers, especially hostile ones. Still, a pyramid can't just pick up and leave and, given our construction, disintegrating until we're mere pyramids of dust is not, alas, going to happen tomorrow which means we have to hang in there.
But we've already been doing that for a couple of decades and have yet to find a way to keep from wincing at every, "yuck," and the myriad variations thereof, we've inspired. So think twice before you say anything. After all, would you gather around an ugly person and discuss his or her physical shortcomings? No, of course not. Well then, where's the difference? Words hurt. It's been scientifically proven and, whatever your words are, remember that we're stuck there forced to hear them in any language you choose to express them. Therefore here's what we suggest. On your next visit to the Louvre while waiting within earshot (ours) to get in, why not talk about the wonderful works of art you want to see inside — and give us a break!
(Mary C. Lyons lives in Paris, France.)