June 23, 2020 / 4:27 PM / 22 days ago

Paris's Orsay museum reopens to smaller crowds with eye on finances

PARIS (Reuters) - The Musee d’Orsay in Paris, home of the French Impressionists, reopened to the public on Tuesday, three months after being forced to shut by the COVID-19 pandemic, and its head called for state help to recover from the financial costs of the lockdown.

Visitors wear protective face masks as they look at artworks during a visit to the Musee d'Orsay, the former Gare d'Orsay train station, as the museum re-opens its doors to the public, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Paris, France, June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The museum can usually attract up to 15,000 visitors a day during the summer months, but with France’s borders still closed to many foreign tourists and with social distancing in place, its daily capacity has now been cut to 5,000.

“The crisis has hit the cultural world very hard. Our revenue shortfall will be significant. We are in a complex situation with a very tough period to navigate in 2020-21,” said museum head Laurence des Cars.

“We are hoping for special support from the state.”

Ticket sales make up 70% of the Orsay’s revenue, and foreign tourists account for 70% of all visitors during the summer.

Visitors are now asked to book tickets online, to wear protective face masks and observe social distancing rules.

Orsay, a former railway station on the left bank of the Seine river, houses the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces.

Access to the entrance and exit is signposted, but circulation within the collection and exhibitions remains free.

The French government began easing its lockdown measures from mid-May and cultural venues are slowly reopening. The Palace of Versailles reopened on June 6 and the Louvre museum will welcome back visitors from July 6.

Visitors wandering around the Orsay’s permanent collections and a new retrospective of French artist James Tissot on Tuesday were delighted that the museum had reopened.

“I was happy and emotional (on learning of the reopening), and the proof is that I’m here on the first day,” said Yvette, an 80-year-old Parisian.

Reporting by Emilie Delwarde, Clotaire Achi, Writing by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Gareth Jones

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