Published on November 13th, 2014 | by Amy Lynne Hayes0
A New Paris Landmark: the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Have you heard? Just when you thought the Paris art scene couldn’t get any better, a new museum comes to town. And this time there won’t be a Renaissance master or Impressionist painter in sight.
The formerly avant-garde Pompidou Centre will have to step aside for the ultra-contemporary Fondation Louis Vuitton. Designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, the building resembles a collection of fragmented sails teetering precariously on supports of metal and wood. It sits to the west of Paris’s other contemporary art museum, in the Bois de Boulogne near the Jardin d’Acclimatation, and will house the collection of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennesy) chairman and C.E.O. Bernard Arnault. The billionaire used his own funds to commission the building. While currently a private museum, Arnault and LVMH plan to turn it over as a gift to the city in 55 years.
Having opened its doors to the public on Oct. 27 of this year, the museum plans to ease into the inauguration with three separate stages. Each stage, occurring between Oct. 2014 and Sept. 2015, will be marked with a different exhibition and other events. The opening program, or first stage, focuses on the building – a work of art in itself – along with works from the collections of six different artists. In addition, pieces by eight other artists were commissioned and a series of “artistic events” were held, including musical performances and sonic sculpture. It’s a complete sensory experience designed to delight from the first glimpse of the façade.
The museum itself is divided into 11 galleries, which the architect describes as “icebergs.” The mix of white fibre-reinforced concrete tiles, metal and glass does give the space a sort of iceberg feel, yet maintains a quality of lightness and movement. Gehry is famous for his unconventional style, so it should be no surprise that the mastermind behind the Guggenheim Bilbao pulled out all the stops for his latest creation.
The entrance lends itself to social functions, no doubt designed with the intention to foster community gatherings. There is a large auditorium space that can hold up to 350 people for various purposes, a perfect backdrop for the next party event of the year. The restaurant – ‘Le Frank’ – is run by Michelin-starred chef Jean-Louis Nomicos. Patrons can dine on French-inspired cuisine in an elegant setting after indulging their artistic sensibilities by day. Or stop by the bookstore, another attraction in its own right. Besides the obvious books, the shop offers a range of products that give a nod to the architecture and materials. Rumor has it they even have a Frank Gehry LV box, on sale for an eye-catching price tag of 3,000 euros.
As is true with any non-traditional building in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton was met with a certain amount of resistance. The same obstacle existed for the now well-loved Eiffel Tower and the more recent Louvre Pyramid and Pompidou Centre. But each was able to overcome the initial back-lash, and LVMH is confident that in time their new museum will join the ranks as one of the iconic buildings of the City of Lights. It has certainly made a splash in the museum circuit already.