2014 saw the opening stage of a brand new private museum and art Centre. Sponsored by the group LVMH (Louis Vuitton) and its subsidiaries, the Louis Vuitton Foundation Paris is an incredible sight, a standout colossus of a building.
The construction of this new centre was started in 2006, designed by the American-Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Built at a cost of $143 million, it opened in October 2014 and is located adjacent to the children’s section of the Jardin d’Acclimation in the Bois de Boulogne in the 16th arrondissement. It looks as Gehry intended – as though it is sailing down the Bois de Boulogne. Although a privately owned venue at the moment it will pass into the hands of the Paris government after 55 years.
The two story structure has 11 galleries of different sizes, a huge 350 seat auditorium and multilevel roof terraces for events and art installations. Gehry had to contain his design within the square footage and two story volume of a bowling alley that previously stood on the site. His remit required that anything higher had to be made of glass. Though it may have seemed difficult, the result is stunning, a leviathan glass building that takes the form of sails inflated by the wind.
Like the pyramid before it at the Louvre, Gehry’s design for Louis Vuitton has attracted controversy. Some love it, some hate it but all agree, this building is like nothing Paris has seen before.
It has been called a 21st century version of the Grand Palais in Paris, the beautiful Beaux Arts exhibition hall off the Champs Elysées. Some say this is Gehry’s attempt to recreate the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao – but in glass. Whatever the hullabaloo and however anyone feels about the Louis Vuitton Fondation, there is no denying that it is a very eye-catching and fascinating piece of architecture.
Inside there are exhibitions of contemporary art by the world’s top artists, concerts will take place in the auditorium and the website shows a dynamic programme of events.
Take the elevator to the fourth floor and walk around the terrace to get an understanding of how this immense glass gallery was put together. What you will not forget are the extraordinary views over the City, especially at night when the building is lit up and Paris twinkles at your feet. There are other terraces, an excellent exhibition of the plans of the museum with models showing what is inside and a film showing how it was built.
Don’t miss the view from the gardens and the water feature, you ticket allows you to exit and return. There is a restaurant called le Frank (a nod to the architect) but already it seems very packed and is quite small.
There is more to come from this museum of modern art, a further two stages marked by new exhibitions in 2015.
You can get tickets online the day before and there is a free app of the floor plan. There are signs from the les Sablons metro stop on line one directing visitors to the short walk to the museum.
Check the website for details of how to get there via public transport or the special Fondation bus, timings, ticketing costs and what’s on: Louis Vuitton Fondation
Linda Mathieu, a native Texan, lives in France with her French husband. She was a Paris Tour Guide and is the author of Secrets of a Paris Tour Guide, available at www.amazon.com.