A Friday 13th at the Louvre might conjure up images of ghosts and ghouls, but it was on that date that winners of a recent INSPIRELLE giveaway, along with the editorial team, followed THATLou creator Daisy de Plume on her cleverly-crafted treasure hunt in Paris’ most famous museum.
Despite the evening start time, the lobby boasted more throngs of tourists milling about than black-clad Belphegors prowling empty stone corridors. Though modernity killed the eerie fantasy, we trusted Captain de Plume to guide our lucky INSPIRELLE team through darker corridors and times, and embarked on a night of scavenging fun!
So what’s a treasure hunt at the Louvre all about?
The mothership of museums can appear intimidating and scare off potential visitors: too big, too crowded, too many things to see, too much of a maze… The reasons for dodging a trip to this Godzilla of institutions are legion, and yet here was a chance to discover the Louvre in a totally unexpected, close-up way.
de Plume, a New York-born art historian, drew from her long experience and entrepreneurial hunch to devise her own fun, fresh way of visiting the Louvre. THATLou (short for Treasure Hunt At The Louvre), offers carefully curated trails to explore. On this Friday the 13th, de Plume selected to take us on a ghoulish, skull-spotting chase, one of her eight themed-tours.
The THATLou formula has met with such success that de Plume also developed THATOr at Musée d’Orsay, and will soon be crossing the Channel to set up THATMuse in London, at the request of the British Museum no less! But, scavenging art in the world’s #1 museum where incomparable, priceless pieces can be seen at every corner? Talk about a needle in a haystack!
Discovering masterpieces in a totally unexpected way
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to roam the vast Denon, Sully and Richelieu wings and fast-forward through styles and eras, looking for specific items to cross off your list (you’ll need to snap a picture of it with your team to prove you found it). Easy as da Vinci? Not quite. As there is no way to find all of the 30-or-so treasures within the time allowed, your group will need to score bonus points. For each artwork, the information provided on your sheet may contain trivia questions, which can prompt more frantic clue-searching, or a goofy dare to stage right under the nose of mythological heroes or gobsmacked tourists.
de Plume makes sure to mix both unavoidable cult pieces with overlooked, sometimes forgotten treasures scattered behind the glass shelves, or dwarfed by gigantic paintings. But the clock is ticking, so don’t you dilly-Dali: two hours in this gigantic maze of a palace go by incredibly fast, no matter how quickly you launch yourself on your quest!
THATLou offers an entertaining spin on the themed-tour to steer you off the beaten path towards the Mona Lisa. The main idea behind the activity, de Plume explains, is for participants to have fun and want to come back for more.
Bringing out the art buff in everyone
And the scavenger hunt definitely seems like an original way to make intimidating institutions such as the Louvre more engaging not only to children (ask for the Kids Pack), but also to those put off by compulsory cultural outings. Everyone has a bit of the art buff in them, so THATLou might just be the little nudge they need to actually start enjoying their visits to museums.
Conversely, longtime art aficionados may have their qualms about zooming past masterpieces or skimming de Plume’s knowledgeable info on the history or meaning of each item. Yet, there is something to say for snubbing a few “must-sees” when you have a larger goal at hand.
While statistics show that visitors spend an average of three hours in the Louvre – a large proportion of which is often devoted to getting your bearing – another study has determined that people only spend about 17 seconds looking at a painting. Keeping those numbers in mind, THATLou’s two-hour thrill ride does not seem so unreasonable. Museums have scared off more than their share of returning visitors, and most people either cross their thresholds because they feel obligated or want to check a famous landmark off their list.
Mixing serious culture with serious, heart-racing fun
Keeping that in mind, racing from one room to the next between sections and wings of the building is actually an excellent introduction to the impressive size and organization of the space (besides being great exercise!) Giggling and being silly with your team-mates are definitely highlights of the experience, yet you’ll surprise yourselves by spontaneously engaging in serious talks on colors, forms and figures, or on your favorite details. In other words, you are learning to look.
The sprawling architecture slowly becomes less of a maze and more of a familiar place, allowing you to make it your own – which is exactly what every visitor should be doing! Beyond being national collections, these treasures are part of a wonderful, essential world heritage that belongs to everyone. Major art spaces shouldn’t be intimidating, rather they should feel like old friends we want to visit over and over. The tools to enjoying them can be taught – not in a boring, didactic way, but with a quirky, intuitive approach that will encourage people to get a regular dose of culture in their daily lives.
By metaphorically shaking down the austere walls of the museum, Daisy de Plume might paradoxically be helping them to preserve, renew and reinvent their tremendous, often forgotten role of easing access to art and beauty.
After this thrilling but exhausting chase (there was quite a lot of huffing and puffing in the frantic rush to the meeting point in the lobby), our INSPIRELLE group was rewarded by a lovely time at a nearby cafe. Each team checked the other’s scores. No sore losers on this game: when it comes to art, everybody wins!