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CULTURE

France Louvre museum prepares to reopen after lockdown from the coronavirus

The Louvre museum in Paris, home to the Mona Lisa, is to reopen on July 6 after the government allowed French museums and historic sites to reopen their doors following the coronavirus shutdown, it said on Friday.

France Louvre museum prepares to reopen after lockdown from the coronavirus
A security man guards the main entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris on April 2, 2020 during lockdown to stop the spread of the coroanvirus. THOMAS COEX / AFP

France is to further ease restrictions imposed to combat the virus from Tuesday but it will only be in July that many top museums and attractions reopen, although some plan to do so in June.

Culture Minister Franck Riester confirmed on Friday that wearing a mask would be obligatory for visiting a museum in France while some will have to impose prior reservation systems to avoid a heavy influx of visitors.

“The implementation of a reservation system as well as new signs will allow us to offer maximum safety to our visitors, in addition to wearing a mask and respecting social distancing,” the Louvre said in a statement.

It added that online reservations for visiting the Louvre when it reopens on July 6 would open on June 15. The Louvre has been closed since March 13.

“Even if we were able to discover the treasures of the Louvre in a virtual way during the lockdown, nothing can replace the emotion of meeting a work in a real way,” said the Louvre's director Jean-Luc Martinez.

“This is the raison-d'etre of museums. We all need a meeting with art that is sensitive and real. A meeting with art, with beauty, can heal our souls,” he added.

After the success of its blockbuster Leonardo exhibition which closed earlier this year, the Louvre said its two exhibitions scheduled for spring and then postponed would now take place in the autumn.

These are on Italian sculpture from Donatello to Michaelangelo and the renaissance German master Albrecht Altdorfer.

The Louvre has upped its virtual presence during the lockdown and said it was now the most followed museum in the world on Instagram with over four million followers.

For other sites, the former royal residence the Chateau de Versailles outside Paris will open on June 6 while the Musee d'Orsay of impressionist masterworks will open from June 23, the ministry of culture said. The iconic Pompidou Centre for modern art in Paris will reopen on July 1.   

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CULTURE

Russian LGBT artists find sanctuary in Paris

For many LGBT Russian artists, the invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying political crackdown was the final straw. Helped by a Paris charity, they have found a new home in France.

Russian LGBT artists find sanctuary in Paris

Alexei, a 23-year-old composer, used to believe that he could ride out President Vladimir Putin’s regime, but watching his friends being arrested or fleeing the country in the wake of the war, he felt he had been naive.

“The war caused me pain, shame and guilt — you tell yourself that you haven’t done enough against this regime,” Alexei, who did not want to give his full name, told AFP.

He knew he had made the right decision to leave when he heard that police had visited the St Petersburg music school where he was a teacher, accusing it of promoting “LGBT propaganda” over a photo of Alexei kissing his boyfriend on its Facebook page.

He came to Paris with the help of a support group, the Agency of Artists in Exile, and was joined by his boyfriend soon after.

The agency set up a hotline for artists from both Ukraine and Russia following the invasion and has helped around 100 artists from the two countries, providing them with studio space, as well as help with visas, language training and psychological support.

As he plays Rachmaninov — a Russian composer — in one of the agency’s practice rooms, Alexei says he is relieved but daunted.

“Here, I have some freedom,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do with that freedom.”

Ukrainians, Russians together

Others have found the transition difficult, too.

Having lived in constant fear of being beaten up back home, Angelu, a non-binary fashion designer, said they were too traumatised to leave their new apartment in Paris when they arrived.

It was, perhaps fittingly, a Ukrainian neighbour who approached them and helped them gain confidence to explore the city.

That relationship is mirrored around the agency’s workshops, where Russians and Ukrainians work closely together, and recently held a joint exhibition.

“The war stops at the doors of the workshop,” said Judith Depaule, who co-founded the agency in 2016.

It is a strange mix, she said, since the Russians have lost all sense of patriotism and the Ukrainians are in the midst of patriotic fervour.

Gena Marvin, 23, arrived in late April.

Back in Moscow, the transgender artist was working on “trash art”, using discarded items to create costumes and sculptures, as well as performances such as wrapping her body in tape that evoke “a country where there is no freedom and where the freedom of my body was not permitted”.

Still listed as male on her official documents, Marvin was terrified of being called up to fight in Ukraine, and decided to leave after being arrested at an anti-war demonstration.

“I don’t feel the same fear in France, but I am still on edge because once you’ve been accustomed to fear, you never totally lose it,” she said.

She has thrown herself into her new life. Over the weekend, she could be seen wrapped in rainbow-coloured tape for the Pride March in Paris.

Alexei, who is working on the soundtrack for a film about Ukraine, still holds out hope of one day being able to go home.

“It is not Russia that is homophobic — only the Russian state,” he said.

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