Paris police help Louvre ward off pickpockets

The Louvre has managed to bring down incidents of pick-pocketing by 75 percent, it emerged on Friday. A strike by employees fed up with aggressive gangs, in April, provided the impetus for the campaign.

Paris police help Louvre ward off pickpockets
The world-famous Louvre museum in Paris. Since a highly-public strike in April, museum staff and Paris police have cut down pickpocketing by 75 percent. Photo: Zoetnet/flickr

"There has been a clear improvement," Paris police spokesman Bernard Boucault told French daily Le Parisien on Friday. 

"We managed to get this result in just a few weeks," he added, underscoring the close collaboration between the world-famous museum and local police.

In April, several employees vented their ire at "increasing numbers and increasingly aggressive" gangs of thieves who were roaming the halls of the enormous gallery. 

Plain-clothed police from the anti-criminality brigade (BAC), alongside backup from the Security and Intervention Squad (Compagnie de sécurisation et d'intervention – CSI) have worked closely with museum staff.

Notably, they have kept an eye out near the pyramid in the courtyard and made their presence known near the escalators which, they noted, were often used as lookout points by the more organized pickpockets.

"It makes them very visible to the thieves and has a dissuasive effect," one of the security personnel told Le Parisien. 

The thieves had been cleaning out visitors, notably in the halls where art lovers stop to gaze at the Mona Lisa and also the room showing the Venus de Milo.

However, they had also been expanding their focus to museum employees, the representative told France TV in April when discontent over the situation neared boiling point.

Management at the museum said it had already lodged a complaint with prosecutors in December 2012 and demanded a greater police presence at one of the most visited museums in the world. Sorting out the pilfering problem was also top of the to-do list for the museum's newly appointed head Jean-Luc Martinez.

The impasse resulted in about 200 Louvre employers going on strike to draw attention to their plight, and to demand that action be taken.

Hundreds of staff also crowded outside the Culture Ministry, which received a delegation to discuss the problem.

The staff were "sometimes scared to work because they are confronted with organized gangs of pickpockets who are becoming more and more aggressive," said Christelle Guyader, spokeswoman from the trade union confederation SUD (Solidaires, unitaires et démocratiques).

Guyader told AFP that the staff believed many of the thieves were getting into the museum for free because they accompanied minors. Arresting them had little effect, as staff noted the pickpockets would show up again in a matter of mere days. 

The staff believed the majority of pickpockets hailed from eastern Europe.

Museum employees also reported at the time that they have been victims of “spittings, insults, threats and physical assaults” and despite lodging several complaints to museum managers there had by April been little action. Museum directors said they had received 150 individual complaints in a document passed on to prosecutors in Paris.

“There have always been pickpockets at the Louvre and in tourist locations in Paris, but for the last year and a half the gangs have become increasingly violent and their modus operandi has become more complex. Nothing can stop them,” Sophie Aguirre, a supervisor in the museum said in April.

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New guide to Paris museums – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Paris' museums and art galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

New guide to Paris museums - showing only the nudes
Find your way straight to the most erotic works in Paris galleries. Photo: Guiseppe Cacace/AFP

The online guides to the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay museums are produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

The Classic Nudes series has been ruffling some feathers since it was posted online earlier in July, with the Uffizi museum in Florence threatening to sue. Bosses at the Louvre have said only that they are ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay has remained silent on the subject.

The guide for the Musée d’Orsay lists 11 erotic artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and a location for each piece within the museum.

The Sleep by Gustave Courbet. Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

Among the works featured are;

  • Le déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet (1863) – which features a group having a picnic in which the woman has lost her clothes (the men remain fully dressed in three-piece suits and ties).
  • Un combat des coqs by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1846) – a nude couple watching a cock fight (that’s cockerels fighting, just to be clear).
  • L’origine du monde by Gustave Courbet (1866) – more than 150 years after it was first painted, the intimate close-up of female genitalia is still making waves. In 2019 Facebook had to pay damages to a French teacher whose account was closed when he posted a picture of the famous artwork.

The guide for the Louvre includes:

Nude young Man by Hippolyte Flandrin. Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
  • Portrait of Madeleine by Marie Guillemine Benoist (1800) – groundbreaking in several senses, this painting is one of the few on the list by a woman, and shows a topless black woman, painted just six years after the abolition of slavery in France’s colonies. 
  • Diane sortant du bain by François Boucher (1742) – one of many paintings on the list showing women having a bath, this features the Greek goddess Diana and her favourite nymph apparently surprised by the artist in the process of drying off after a bath. 
  • Le Jeune homme nu by Hippolyte Flandrin (1835) – most of the flesh shown in both the galleries is female (because that’s the patriarchy for you) but here we have a more rare male nude, a study of a young man sitting and looking rather sad and pensive.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

Both museums, however, form a great day out for all the family and contain a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present both are operating reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.

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