Conceived for the elevation of culture and art, the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation launched, in 2006, the construction of a new building to present art exhibits, multimedia spectacles, meetings, debates, symposiums, and educational activities for young and old. The institution has had its share of legal obstacles, but the new museum is set to finally open its doors this spring, in Paris. It will house Bernard Arnault’s impressive corporate and private art collections.
Arnault, president of Louis Vuitton Hennessy Moet, and the wealthiest man in France, according to Forbes magazine, commissioned Pritzker-winning architect Frank Gehry for the monumental project.
The building, under construction in the Bois de Boulogne, has been no stranger to controversy. The Coordination for Protection of the Bois de Boulogne and its Surroundings, a group set on preserving the natural state of Bois de Boulogne, attempted to block construction of the new museum arguing that the park, more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park and three times the size of London’s Hyde Park, is intended for public use and the museum would block a road that must remain accessible. Court dates have come and gone, but the French Senate approved a bill that will allow the continuation of the project, after overruling a 2011 statute that found the museum was, in fact, too close to the road.
For those eagerly awaiting the opening of the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, the museum is seen as a venue that will serve to augment cultural activity in the area. “I dream of designing, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolizing the cultural calling of France”, says Gehry about the venue.
Those familiar with Gehry’s previous works, which include the Guggenheim in Bilbao and Prague’s Dancing House, will not be surprised by the unconventional design, “an iceberg dressed in a cloud” as it was described by Arnault’s cultural adviser, Jean-Paul Claverie. However, those who prefer a more conservative approach to architecture may not be dazzled by the structure.
Inspired by the gardens and glass architecture of the late 19th century, Gehry envisioned a large building, 130 feet tall and 500 feet wide, with volume and movement. Placed on a pond created specifically for the construction, and set against a background of greenery, the building looks like a ship, in motion, with wind inflated sails. Glass panels cover the structure in a chromatic interplay as different colors and light patterns are reflected throughout the day. From a different angle, the museum takes on the shape of a cloud, transparent and indefinite. Whether one sees an iceberg, a cloud, a ship, or, perhaps, another form, one thing is for sure: Gehry’s innovative design will give way to much conversation.
The Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation will house pieces by masters such as Picasso or Warhol, alongside more contemporary artworks. Led by curator Suzanne Page, the museum will showcase an exciting mixture of different styles and eras. It will also have a restaurant and auditorium.
Two different mind frames seem to surround the much talked about Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation: Nay-Sayers believe the building will ruin an outdoor, peaceful environment while others expect the venue to bring Paris’ cultural identity to a new level. If history is to be any sign of what’s to come for the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, let us say that in 1887, groups protested the Eiffel Tower, claiming it would be useless and unattractive.