Guide Tour of Louis Vuitton Foundation, Paris, France

The Louis-Vuitton Corporate Foundation, is a new space that opens up dialogue with a wide audience and offers artists and intellectuals a platform for debate and reflection.. The building object of the foundation is a museum, designed by the American architect Frank Gehry, located in the Jardin d’acclimatation, in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. It is particularly devoted to modern art and contemporary art.

Driven by a mission of general interest, the Foundation is committed to making art and culture accessible to all. In order to promote artistic creation on a national and international level, it relies on temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, presentations of works from its collection, commissions from artists, as well as multidisciplinary events (concerts, performances, conferences, screenings, dance, etc.).

The Foundation anchors its commitment to current creation in a historical perspective. In 2001, Bernard Arnault entrusted Frank Gehry with the project of designing and creating a building for the Louis-Vuitton Foundation, south of the Jardin d’acclimatation. Under the hand of the architect, the glass building takes on the appearance of a sailboat with sails inflated by the west wind, thus giving the illusion of movement.

The bold creativity of Frank Gehry’s design makes the building itself the first work of art at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Rising amidst centuries-old trees, it stands on a mirror of water, harmoniously integrated with the surrounding natural environment to invite a compelling dialogue. The building designed to reflect a constantly changing world, that evolves depending on the time of day and the light, in order to create an impression of intangibility and continual transformation. The plays of light and transparency of the sails impart a dynamism that echoes the activities of the Foundation.

Twelve “sails” envelop the “icebergs” which house the exhibition spaces, a succession of organic white forms clad in ductal concrete(broken down into 19,000 panels, all different and staggered to create, These volumes are separated by openings, faults and superpositions which are closed by glazed walls broken down into forty-six works of very diverse configurations, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish facades and roofs. Each of these sails, of different shape and curvature, is supported by a sophisticated interplay of steel and wood beams.

A host of technological innovations made it possible for the building to express its artistic ambitions. From the design of the concept to the approach taken for construction work, the Fondation Louis Vuitton project revisited fundamental architecture principles, taking them in exciting new directions. The complexity of the assembly and the unique features of each component in the building, led the engineers to adapt industrial processes to a custom-crafted manufacturing model. The dialogue between the glass and the wood and metal frame represents both a technical and aesthetic feat.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation is located in the Bois de Boulogne, near the Jardin d’Acclimatation, a famous park in western Paris. Covering an area of 846 hectares, the Bois de Boulogne has 28 km of bridleways and 15 km of cycling routes. It is crossed by many lakes, streams and ponds as well as by the Grande Cascade which have been the delight of many Parisians since the middle of the 19th century.

The Jardin d’Acclimatation is becoming a fashionable place popular with walkers, teachers and scholars. Offering an immense variety of exotic plants and rare animals, it has housed, since its inception, a zoological society which, under the aegis of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, will develop a triple educational, scientific and recreational ambition. Even today, in addition to its exceptional landscape heritage, the Jardin d’Acclimatation houses architectural elements that bear witness to its history: the Great Aviary, the Dovecote, the Stables, the Bandstand and the Deer Rock give it everything its Parisian charm.

In order to best integrate the building into the environment of the Jardin d’acclimatation, the foundation drew up a development plan reconnecting with the founding principles of 19th century landscaped gardens. It connects the building with the Jardin d’acclimatation to the north and with the Bois de Boulogne to the south. The establishment of the foundation building is carried out within the framework of an occupancy agreement dated January 1, 2007, for a period of fifty-five years, at the end of which the building will return to the city of Paris.

Louis Vuitton Foundation is an exceptional place for art and culture on audacity and emotion by entrusting Frank Gehry with the construction of an emblematic building of the 21st century. Frank Gehry imagined a unique, emblematic and audacious building. Respectful of a history rooted in the French culture of the 19th century, Frank Gehry dares the technological prowess of the 21st century, paving the way for founding innovations.

From an initial sketch penciled on the blank page of a notebook, Frank Gehry imagined “a magnificent vessel which symbolizes the cultural vocation of France”. The architectural route retraces the creation of this building, which has become an iconic building in the capital. Frank Gehry visited the garden, and imagined an architecture inspired by the glass Grand Palais, and also by the structures of glass, such as the Palmarium.

Frank Gehry was inspired by the lightness of glass and garden architecture from the end of the 19th century. The architect creates many models in wood, plastic and aluminum, playing with lines and shapes, giving a certain movement to his building in the making. The choice of materials is made: a glass envelope will cover the body of the building, an assembly of blocks called “iceberg”, giving it its volume and momentum. Placed on a basin, the building was designed like a sailboat or a vessel fitting into the natural environment, between woods and gardens, playing with light and mirror effects.

The two-story structure has 11 galleries of different sizes, a voluminous 350-seat auditorium on the lower-ground floor and multilevel roof terraces for events and art installations. Gehry had to build within the square footage and two-story volume of a bowling alley that previously stood on the site; anything higher had to be glass. The resulting glass building takes the form of a sailboat’s sails inflated by the wind. These glass sails envelop the “iceberg”, a series of shapes with white, flowery terraces.

Frank Gehry retained the transparent lightness of glass and the taste of the walk punctuated with surprises. Its architecture merges a traditional art of living, a visionary audacity and the innovations offered by the technologies of the present. Like the world is constantly changing, we wanted to design a building that evolves with time and light to create a sense of transience and continual change.

From the invention of glass curved to the nearest millimeter for the 3,600 panels of the twelve veils of the Foundation, to the 19,000 panels of ductal (fibre concrete) all different, offering the iceberg its immaculate whiteness, without omitting a process of unprecedented design, each stage of construction has pushed back the limits of coded architecture to invent a unique building worthy of a dream.

Funded by LVMH, the museum is dedicated to contemporary art. It has eleven galleries on three levels intended to present different collections, exhibitions, interventions by artists as well as an auditorium with modular configurations.

The museum houses a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art belonging to the Foundation, as well as Bernard Arnault’s personal collection. The museum also holds regular temporary exhibitions which include multidisciplinary installations, commissioned works from artists, and loans from other private institutions.

The museum’s collection, believed to be a combination of works owned by LVMH and Bernard Arnault, include works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gilbert & George and Jeff Koons. For site-specific installations, the foundation commissioned works by Ellsworth Kelly, Olafur Eliasson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (starring Scott Tixier and Tony Tixier), Sarah Morris, Taryn Simon, Cerith Wyn Evans and Adrián Villar Rojas.

Kelly made a curtain, Spectrum VIII (2014), consisting of 12 coloured strips, for the building’s auditorium. Eliasson created Inside the Horizon (2014), made up of 43 prism-shaped yellow columns that are illuminated from the inside and placed along a walkway. Villar Rojas created a water tank containing found objects, discarded sneakers and plants, installed under one of the 12 glass “sails” that provide the Fondation’s signature, swerving shape.

Driven by a mission of general interest and attentive to the diversity of visitors since its opening in 2014, it produces exhibitions for everyone. Each year two temporary exhibitions, one of modern art, the other of contemporary art mark the highlights of the Foundation. Through its exhibitions, the Foundation is committed to promoting modern and contemporary artistic creation and contributes to its influence both nationally and internationally.

Alongside major modern art exhibitions (“The Keys to a Passion”, “Icons of Modern Art. The Chtchoukine Collection”, “The Courtauld Collection: the Party of Impressionism”), it offers a on the scene today in France and around the world (“Chinese artists at the Louis Vuitton Foundation”, “Art/Africa, the new studio”, “In tune with the world”…).

The Foundation presents monographic exhibitions such as “Olafur Eliasson: Contact” (2014-2015), “Frank Gehry. The Louis Vuitton Foundation” (2014-2015), “Jean-Michel Basquiat ” (2018-2019) and ” Egon Schiele ” (2018-2019). Other exhibitions, “The Keys to a Passion” (2015) and “Being Modern: The MoMA in Paris ” (2017-2018) bring together significant masterpieces of modernity and the history of the art. Some events focus on contemporary international scenes such as “Bentu. Chinese artists in the turbulence of mutations”, or even “Art/Africa. The new workshop”. Finally, the Foundation pays tribute to emblematic collectors, such as Sergueï Chtchoukine in “Icons of modern art. The Chtchoukine Collection” (2016-2017) or Samuel Courtauld in “The Courtauld Collection, the party of impressionism” (2019).

Cultural space
Echoing the current exhibitions, artistic and intellectual personalities meet for a discussion. Symposiums, debates and meetings are organized within the Foundation and offer a renewed look at the works exhibited. In addition, the Open Space program, initiated in 2018, invites young national and international artists to imagine a specific project for the Foundation, in dialogue with Frank Gehry’s building.

Since 2018, it has also offered a program dedicated to creation in its most current expressions: Open Space. Artists are invited to imagine a specific project in Frank Gehry’s building, such as Jean-Marie Appriou, Matt Copson, Anna Hulačová, Hoël Duret, Lauren Halsey, Meriem Bennani and Jean Claracq.

Performance art
In the Auditorium, musicians and artists from all disciplines offer a classical and contemporary repertoire. The auditorium can accommodate from three hundred seats to a thousand standing places. thanks to the various configurations of the stands. The acoustics are provided by Nagata Acoustics, which has previously worked with Frank Gehry for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The scenography of the auditorium and adjoining spaces was designed by the agency dUCKS scéno.

As part of the “hors-les-murs” program, exhibitions also take place in Tokyo, Beijing, Munich, Beijing, Seoul and Venice, to present works from the Foundation’s Collection to an international audience. This program presents works from the Collection that have never before been exhibited in Louis Vuitton Spaces, thus affirming the Foundation’s desire to set up international projects and make them accessible to the widest public.