Louvre Victory Statue Back With No Help From Overextended State

One of the Louvre’s biggest draws, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, is back today in its coveted spot at the Paris museum after a year of restoration.

The 6.6 foot-high (2.4 meters) statue, one of the most-viewed art pieces in the world’s most-visited museum, was restored with no help from the overextended French state -- the first time that has happened. Three private sponsors -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Fitch Ratings owner Fimalac SA and Japan’s Nippon TV Holdings -- together with 6,700 individual donors raised 4 million euros ($5.4 million) for the restoration of the statue, the museum’s website says.

State funding for culture has taken a hit after President Francois Hollande slashed spending on such activities as France struggles to meet budget-deficit targets and lags behind its European partners in economic growth. Private donors have become critical to the Louvre, which for the first time ever last year got more of its funding from ticket sales and private sponsors than from the state.

The International Monetary Fund cut its 2014 French growth forecast to 0.7 percent last week from 1 percent previously. The Culture Ministry’s 2014 budget fell 2 percent from last year, when it was cut by 2 percent over 2012, a ministry report shows.

The private money helped the museum restore the Victory statue and return it to its place of honor at the top of a flight of stairs, which is the busiest passage at the Louvre.

The statue stands on pedestal in the shape of a boat’s bow, looming over the Daru stairs, which leads to the 2,700 year-old 29-ton white marble representation of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. The statue’s fine-grained marble comes from the island of Paros in Greece. It was discovered 151 years ago on the island of Samothrace by French diplomat Charles Champoiseau.

New Efforts

The Victory statue’s renovation is the latest at the Louvre’s Greek antiquities gallery. The current president of the museum, Jean-Luc Martinez, oversaw the decade-long renovation of the gallery, where the Venus de Milo is also showcased. Martinez was named to the head of the Louvre in April 2013.

In 2012, the French state still provided the biggest chunk of the museum’s resources. The state gave the museum 98 million euros in 2013, less than the 116 million euros in 2012, according to data provided to Bloomberg by the museum.

The museum’s sales increased last year to 101 million euros from 100 million euros in 2012. Back in 2003, the state’s funding represented 71 percent of the Louvre’s resources.

The Louvre has reached out to private donors for acquisitions and restorations as state funding has shrunk.

Sponsorships represented about 16 percent of the 100 million euros in revenue in 2012, according to the Louvre’s online annual report.

The museum will soon open its first international offshoot in Abu Dhabi, a project that’s bringing it and its French partner museums a total of 1 billion euros over 30 years.

About 9.5 million visitors are expected this year at the Louvre, with about 70 percent of them coming from overseas. Americans make up the majority of foreign visitors, ahead of the Chinese and Brazilians.

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