Louvre sets stage for "Funeral of Mona Lisa"

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PARIS (Reuters) - A giant, grey version of Mona Lisa with tears in her eyes and streaks of paint running down her front goes on display at the Louvre museum this week in the room next to the original by Leonardo da Vinci.

The new work by Franco-Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming is the centerpiece of an exhibition entitled “The Funeral of Mona Lisa,” part of the Louvre’s efforts to bring contemporary art face to face with the masterpieces of old.

The display consists of five paintings. The huge grey Mona Lisa is in the center, framed by two mysterious images that look like grey clouds and are dotted with images of skulls modeled on scans of the painter’s head.

At the far ends of the display are a portrait of Yan’s dead father and a self-portrait of Yan himself in a deathlike pose.

He said the works were “a homage and a funeral” for Mona Lisa, without further explanation.

Yan is famous in contemporary art circles for portraits of 20th century icons ranging from Mao Zedong to Bruce Lee.

The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum. It hosted 8.5 million visitors in 2008, many of them tourists for whom the Mona Lisa is the star attraction.

Many artists have used Da Vinci’s masterpiece as the basis for their own works, sometimes parodying the original. Dadaist painter Marcel Duchamp gave her a mustache and a goatee, while Andy Warhol created pop art serigraph prints of her.

It is a first, however, for a work inspired by the Mona Lisa to go on display so close to the original. “The Funeral of Mona Lisa” opens to the public on Thursday, until May 18.

Reporting by Lucien Libert, writing by Estelle Shirbon