Resembling a shiny cloud, futuristic sailing ship or even a glacial iceberg, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by the world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, is a shining symbol of art and culture of the 21st century. In a sea of 19th century concrete architecture, this complex is like a breath of fresh air – quite literally, since it reflects the color of the surrounding atmosphere, whether gray and cloudy or bright and blue. Regardless of the weather conditions, the building is magnificent, inside and out.
Inaugurated in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton was born out of a desire to promote contemporary art and culture in a long-lasting, beneficial and tangible way. The group responsible for this project is the LVMH group, which represents a myriad of luxury brands such as Dior, Veuve Clicquot, Guerlain, Bvlgari and of course, Louis Vuitton. As a collective entity, they strive to both maintain the highest level of quality and heritage while continually looking for ways to innovate. This center is a way for the group to put down more roots, bring attention to western Paris and encourage artistic dialogue with artists, intellectuals and the public.
The architecture alone is astounding. Overlapping layers of glass and metal hover over a central “iceberg” covered in fiber-reinforced concrete and stone, with no obvious beginning or end. Your eye constantly moves from one facet to the next, never getting bored. There are 12 glass “sails” in total, made from 3,600 panes and supported by wooden and steel beams. The wooden supports add to the nautical theme and impart a warmth that would have been lacking had everything been covered in reflective material.
From the lowest level, where you’ll find a reflecting pool and stepped fountain, to the rooftop terrace, where you’ll see amazing views of the skyscrapers of La Défense, it’s easy to see why this is considered to be one of Frank Gehry’s most unique and innovative projects.
The collection of art being shown changes on a regular basis, but the current collection focuses on two ideas: Pop and Music/Sound. The Pop section showcases art inspired by consumer society, television, cinema and the internet (along the lines of Andy Warhol), while the Music/Sound section showcases art in the form of environments, sculpture and video in which sound or music is integral to the piece.
There are also a handful of commissioned works such as this series of 43 mirrored and illuminated columns by Olafur Eliasson entitled Inside the Horizon (2014). The mirrored columns extend the length of the building on the lowest level and reflect the surrounding architecture like a kaleidoscope – walking through them is somewhat surreal because the mirrors distort reality.
Located at the edge of the Jardin d’Acclimation in the expansive green area known as the Bois de Boulogne on the western side of Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is easily accessed by metro and shuttle bus, although you’ll have to do a bit of walking if you take the metro. The shuttle bus conveniently runs between the Arc of Triomphe and the Fondation, dropping you off directly in front of the entrance.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne
Ticket includes entry to Jardin d’Acclimation:
Metro Les Sablons (line 1)
Shuttle Bus at Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue Friedland
(Image Credits: Top image courtesy of Fondation Louis Vuitton and Iwan Baan. All other images by the Author)