Fondation Louis Vuitton Between art and audacity

Designed by “starchitecte” Frank Gehry, a new building has finally spread its glass wings on the fringes of the Bois de Bologne. Dedicated to contemporary art, this architectural marvel is the brainchild of Bernard Arnault, the president of LVMH.

A dazzling combination of power, elegance and poetry, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, by international architectural genius, Frank Gehry, winner of the 1989 Pritzker Prize, is one of the first masterpieces of 21st century architecture. Covering an area of over 10,000 sq.m., it’s pretty hard to miss. The central white concrete section, nicknamed the iceberg, sits on an ornamental lake, made especially for the building, creating a mirror effect between the sky and the water that helps it blend harmoniously into its surroundings. But it’s only when you walk through the building that you really understand just how beautiful it is. From the 360° terraces, visitors discover Paris from a whole new angle: the Eiffel Tower appears far away on the horizon, while the Bois de Boulogne stretches in front of you, and the towers of La Défense rise just a short distance away.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

8 avenue du Mahatma Gandhi 75016 Paris Phone : 01 40 69 96 00
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A building, great architectural sculpture

The building is home to one of the largest foundations owned by a private company in Europe – the result of LVMH’s generous patronage policy – and reveals the company’s long history of supporting artists.Frank Gehry visited the site in 2002: “I imagined Marcel Proust, strolling around the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the 19th century. I never dreamed of anything other than a glass building, like the Grand Palais in Paris,” he recalls. He began sketching his first designs, imagining, on a scrap of paper, a cloud of glass. A pure folly, and one that would require perseverance and patience to achieve. The president of LVMH had to overcome a series of administrative, legal and, above all, technical obstacles before the building became reality, and over one hundred talented engineers were brought in to advise the architect, with help from Dassault Systèmes. Thirty patents for technological innovations were filed as part of the design process. The 12,500 sq.m. glass structure consists of 3,600 individual panels, each molded to measure – a revolutionary mechanical treatment in itself – and interspersed with large larch pillars, sourced from the Black Forest, crossed by steel structures and supported by panels of Ductal, a white concrete that’s as soft as skin. Strength, gentleness and light are three words that perfectly sum up this building. The project was launched in 2006, the first stone was laid in 2008 and the foundation opens its doors six years later. “I designed the building several years ago, so when I look at it now, there are some things I would change. But it’s too late now!” says Gehry mischievously. Sporting straight walls, ceilings at right angles, and natural light wells, the foundation’s twelve exhibition rooms, each a different size, provide artists with a “white cube” in which to display their work. The building is designed to be flexible and in constant motion, just like the contemporary art scene.

Bernard Arnault's own collection

Suzanne Pagé, the foundation’s artistic director, who worked at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris for thirty-three years, enthusiastically describes the Foundation’s inaugural program. “It has been divided into three stages, each organized around a display with a specific and more or less extensive selection of works from the collection, featuring items belonging to the foundation and Bernard Arnault’s own collection, as well as various multi-disciplinary elements.” “It has to be an emotional experience for the public,” explains this feisty “grande dame” of the contemporary art world. The third stage of the ongoing inaugural program, Accrochage 3, brings together works related to pop and music/sound. From 25 July, Accrochage 3, will also feature video presentations based on pop music sources.

As you walk mesmerized through the rest of this glass iceberg, you can either stop off at the bookstore with its huge range of works and educational games focusing on art, or head to the gastronomic restaurant, Le Frank, where you can sample a delicious menu created by starred chef, Jean-Louis Nomicos, seated in a glass-and-wood bubble under huge fish lamps designed by Frank Gehry himself! The capital’s latest cultural adventure is a dream finally come true.

It has to be an emotional experience for the public

By Fabrice Léonard - Published the

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