Art and culture are such an integral part of French society that even in English we use the term chef d’oeuvre, and these are the words that swarmed through my thoughts as I visited the Fondation Louis Vuitton last month. Fashion not your thing? It is not the museum’s either. The Fondation was built by LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault to celebrate contemporary art and French crafts, but for now, the most thrilling thing about the building is the building itself.
Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the Fondation rises from the trees of the Bois de Boulogne, its glass sails reflecting the nature all around, while embracing it at the same time. Much like the Eiffel Tower, the latest architectural addition to the city of Paris has found the alchemists’ secret to making heavy, solid forms seem as light and sensuous as lace — wood-trimmed glass lace that bends and soars around the blocks that form the building’s core.
Entering the cavernous hall, visitors see a light-infused cloud of articulated fish swimming above the modern café. Each core block provides gallery space for the art to come, connected by outdoor terraces and inner stairways, an embracing maze that guides you from an exquisite view to surprising installations. Inside the Horizon by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson draws visitors in, covering them in amber light while playing with their reflections as they stroll through the building’s grotto. On the upper deck, I felt as if the building was projecting me out onto the treetops while embracing me into its shelter as I admired the living, rotting sculpture Where the Slaves Live by Adrian Villar Rojas.
In addition to art exhibitions, the Fondation hosts concerts and performances throughout the year. They provide the perfect opportunity to visit the auditorium, with its Ellsworth Kelly art and meditative view of the Fondation’s cascading, mesmerizing fountain. Dare I say the Fondation Louis Vuitton has provided the most mesmerizing museum experience I’ve had in some time.
Fondation Louis Vuitton – 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116. Tel: +33 (0)1 40 69 96 00
- Discover parks, gardens, and cafés in the beautiful Bois de Boulogne just west of Paris.
- Check out other galleries and art events happening this month in Paris.
- Don’t miss Vanity Fair’s exclusive article on architect Frank Gehry and Bernard Arnault’s vision for the Fondation Louis Vuitton.