The man behind the Louvre pyramid: how IM Pei reinvented the art museum for an age of mass tourism

The glass pyramid designed by IM Pei
The glass pyramid designed by IM Pei Credit: Reuters

On August 10, 1793, just a year after France’s revolutionary government had abolished the nation’s monarchy, it reopened the former Louvre Palace in Paris as a public art gallery, exhibiting 537 paintings, confiscated in large part from the collections of the crown and church. Over the following months, hundreds of thousands of Parisians took advantage of the opportunity to visit a building whose change of use so vividly embodied the new political order. 

In the years since, those numbers have only grown and, in recent decades, exponentially so. The 10.2 million art-lovers who visited the Louvre in 2018 represented the largest annual attendance figure that has been achieved by any museum in the...

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