News of plummeting attendance by the millions at the legendary Louvre Museum in Paris can set one to think about all that tourists are missing by skipping this attraction. Thoughts of a movie come to mind. Remember “Forget Paris”? A ‘90s flick, it showed Billy Crystal, an NBA referee, in France for a funeral, deciding to take in the sights and asking airline employee Debra Winger, “You got any stuff here?” When she mentions the Eiffel Tower, he says, “That’s here?” Another “here” is the Louvre’s collection of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world.

(More about that in a moment).

Circumstances beyond our control

As the number of visitors nosedived, gate receipts at the Paris museum fell a whopping $10 million. Reportedly, travellers were spooked by the terrorist attacks of the last two years. It also didn’t help that the museum closed its doors for nearly a week when the waters of the Seine swelled and threatened to flood the place. And then, only a few days later, a fire raged outside the structure that sent a cloud of blackish smoke across the city sky like a warning to stay away.

An embarrassment of riches

The Louvre, once a palace of kings and queens, courtiers and emperors, amassed a tonne of art so iconic that most grade school kids would know it on sight - like the “Venus de Milo” from the 3rd century B.C.

and “Winged Victory” from the 4th century. And then there’s that biggie, “Mona Lisa” - thanks to Francis I, the 16th-century Royal, who got an ageing Leonardo da Vinci, to come to France as his guest. The artist brought his paintings with him. So what you get is many of the universe’s best-known paintings and sculpture and more often than not in their original, one-of-a-kind form.

This brings us to the point of today’s column.

Glittering generalities

There may be further visitor losses at the Louvre (as well as at other art museums) that would have nothing to do with flooding, fire or terrorism. In a world where 3-D printing machines can copy the Venus de Milo with the press of a button and Kinko’s can reproduce “Mona Lisa” by the bushel, how many people will go on valuing original art?

This thought dogged my visit to the now defunct Guggenheim Museum in Las Vegas, which was housed in the grandly appointed Venetian Hotel laden with fake frescoes, replicated statuary and other shiny objects. The exhibit at the time, century-old work from Russian’s Hermitage Museum, paled by comparison with the flashy, phoney “art” that surrounded it. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Russian Museum, told me that he also worried that the appeal of his one-of-a-kind collection would lose out to Vegas glitz. And sure enough, it did. The Guggenheim in Vegas closed down in 2008.