Cruising Through The Louvre
by David Prudhomme
Walking through the Louvre museum in Paris is like being inside a comic book, says the character David Prudhomme early on in Cruising Through The Louvre, a comic book by David Prudhomme.
Cruising Through The Louvre is another graphic novel from The Louvre Collection by NBM Publishing, in which various and sundry french artists offer up a story, or stories, that take place in, and are in some way about, the Louvre Museum. Unlike two previous book in this series that I reviewed, Glacial Period by Nicolas de Crécy and Phantoms of the Louvre by Enki Bilal, Prudhomme chooses a less serious approach by shifting his focus away from any big imagined ‘story’ (though Cruising is fiction, and a little magical) to the people visiting the museum. The result is a bit comical, with panels of people hamming it up in front of famous works of art.
The result is also perhaps a bit minorly horrifying too, in that the hamming-up people are all doing so in order to have their pictures taken (or to take selfies) with cellphones. It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Louvre, where the only real zombie-tourist area was around the Mona Lisa, but according to Prudhomme, the whole place now seems overrun with people whose primary interaction with art is through the small screens of their phones. Which leaves the sort-of implicit question of whether in fact people are even viewing art anymore, or if we’ve reached a point now where what is more important is the documenting of ourselves experiencing art, to prove to others that we’re artistic.
Despite the pages of panels depicting people being almost disrespectful (imho) in the museum (as is people with cellphones’ wont) Prudhomme comes away from his museum experience hopeful and optimistic. Because, to him (I’m not sure I’m on board all the way) a screen and a panel and painting are all just ways of framing humanity, and once he leaves the museum, he realizes that he sees himself and others (and art!) in ‘panels’ everywhere, especially windows of storefronts and metro cars, but also in posters, advertising, almost anything.
In fact, once you’ve read Cruising Through The Louvre, like Prudhomme, you’ll be changed as well—you’ll start to view the world like Prudhomme, and see panels of humanity (that is, art) everywhere. Which is what good art does: it changes the way we look at life.
Which is not the first time I’ve said this about one of NBM’s Louvre Collection: This series is actually really kinda genius, and I think so even more so now: If Phantoms of the Louvre made me look at art one way (as in, imagining the stories and ghosts behind a work of art) Cruising Through The Louvre makes me look at it another way, not as a dusty historical thing that was important some time ago, but is instead relevant to contemporary society: Art from any age is a reminder of our humanity, and of our empathy.
I’m still not sure I totally agree with Prudhomme that cellphones are so innocuous. Or, that is, people’s narcissistic way of using them sometimes. And I do have a quibble with the translation by Joe Johnson, and/or his editor, for not catching lines like this: “I know longer know which way to turn!” ‘Nuff said! Still, some of the panels are just brilliant—life imitating art, like a group of people with cameras and cellphones, arms outreached, facing a statue of Anubis, with his arms held out in the same way.
Perhaps, in addition to shifting our focus in Real Life to the art all around us, we could also, as Prudhomme shows us, shift our focus in a museum from the art…to the life.
My review of Phantoms of the Louvre by Enki Bilal here.
My review of Glacial Period by Nicolas de Crécy here.