Auction offers chance to get up close and personal with Mona Lisa
The Louvre museum in Paris is using its most famous artwork to fill the 90m euro (£81m) hole in its finances created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Special access to the Mona Lisa is to be sold to the highest bidder.
Whoever wins the auction will be allowed to get close to Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece by witnessing the annual examination of the painting.
Normally visitors only see it over the heads of crowds swarming round the 1503 portrait, also known as La Gioconda, and at a distance of three metres (15ft).
But each year, the Mona Lisa, which is threatened by a crack, is taken down from the wall and removed from its glass case for a fleeting check.
Some world leaders are among a fortunate few who have in past decades witnessed the event.
Also among the two dozen lots going under the hammer is an oil canvas painted in 1962 by Pierre Soulages and held in the artist’s private collection, and a bespoke timepiece by watchmaker Vacheron Constantin.
A walk along the rooftop of the 800-year-old Louvre palace with French street artist JR is another item for the auction, which Christie’s hopes will raise more than one million euros (£900,000).
Officials are hopeful of raising between 10,000 and 30,000 euros (£9,000-£27,000) for the Mona Lisa experience.
Yann Le Touher, who handles relations with the Louvre’s patrons, said: “The Louvre is suffering like all big museums around the world.”
Almost 10 million visitors came to the museum in 2019, but it has been closed for more than five months during two lockdowns this year and – when it was open over the summer – numbers were down by as much as 75% during peak months.
Mr Le Touher said the Louvre would lose up to 90 million euros in revenue this year and, while rich in art and heritage, it was not a wealthy institution.