Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris


It’s about time I got to the Parisian posts from last November’s trip to Europe… The new museum designed by Frank Gehry and funded by the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris got a LOT of press when it opened late last year, just a few weeks before we got to Paris. It is a spectacular structure by any measure — striking, unusual and very modern. I am not an architect, but my simplified and perhaps slightly cynical view of the building is a bunch of concrete boxes (exhibition spaces) that are shielded by these giant sails of steel and glass. The museum rises from the gardens of the the Bois de Boulogne, just minutes by electric and therefore environmentally conscious shuttle bus from the Arc de Triomphe, near the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.


It’s always amazing what the results are of a collaboration of immense wealth, vision and creativity. In the past, folks with serious bucks built amazing palaces, stunning monuments, impressive edifices. Today, the money of many dotcom, app and tech billionaires seem to be used for much less showy (but still impressive) things, say preserving 200,000 hectares of Amazon forest, or eradicating diseases, distributing birth control, etc. Sure, they still have their toys, see parking problems here at the recent Pacquiao-Mayweather fight in Las Vegas (think $30 million per plane at 100 jets so that $3 billion or PHP135 billion in equipment in that photo alone), but I think less and less folks are building palatial homes like this one at Versailles, and don’t forget the gardens. Can you imagine locking up the windows every night? :)


But back to the Fondation Louis Vuitton. I thought the building was stunning. Utterly stunning. My kind of space. One of the first rooms you walk through on your visit are several scale models made of the building as it was being conceptualized, plus multi-media presentations of aerial views, etc. of the building.


From a practical point of view, I wonder how it would withstand gale force winds or a typhoon like Haiyan, but it was a pleasure to behold.


The art inside, however, was another story. We were totally underwhelmed. It was quite a disappointment given how fancy the wrapping was. But never mind, they should forget the art and just focus on the building. With works like this grey canvas on display, you inevitably had to say in your own mind… “hmmm, I could do that”…


Several Ellsworth Kelly’s and other modern pieces adorned the vast wall spaces, but it just didn’t seem like they had enough. It’s a youngish collection I gather, and perhaps over the next 50 years it will grow far more impressive, but it’s sort of like the cart came before the horse, though it is a stunningly beautiful thoroughbred horse. See a stunning night time photo of the building, here.


Maybe they spent so much on the building they couldn’t afford to buy any more art. I am kidding, of course. Then again, with a single Gauguin painting like this one recently fetching USD300million at auction, you’d think they would have to spend at least USD100 million for a room to display it in!


A view from the gardens.


Marketman in front of the Foundation LV entrance, which has that famous LV monogram logo, of course. A bit gaudy, as usual… did you see this article saying Vuitton bags are “for secretaries”? Bottom line, if the company used some of its profits for this spectacular architectural stunner, bravo for them!

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5 Responses

  1. Finally! The continuation of the Paris posts. :)

    I agree with the link that LV are for people who want to announce that they’ve made it and can afford a designer bag now. Folks who have been buying designer bags for years are shifting to more subtle but still recognizable bags with no logos. Walk around Greenbelt and you’ll see Celine and Givenchy quite a lot. LV seems to be changing their strategy though. They’ve been focusing on newer designs without logos and have been raising their prices to make themselves more exclusive.

    I’ve heard the same feedback from people who have visited this. You come for the building, not the art within.

  2. That Gauguin piece was Botong Francisco’s evident inspiration for his painting of two maidens playing at tsungka.

  3. part of the problem with Gehry [and other {st}architects known for their respective signature schticks] may be the diminishing power of their subsequent iteration[s]. how do you keep fresh an idea, re-done that repeatedly and equally stuns? amidst a crowd that keeps expecting reinvention and the new new? demanded by moneyed clients that will keep your office employed years on end… [this is, of course, counter to the Warholian mass consumer iterative’s: non-distinct, each of his screen prints fetches millions NOTWITHSTANDING that it is one of many sames…]

    having seen LV last month [and having followed and visited his earlier works in Minnesota [Weitzman], Cambridge, LA Disney concert hall, et al and, soon after visiting LV, his Guggenheim in Bilbao], me thought it was powerful but very much ‘constricted’, not as ‘free’ and ‘having wings’ as his Bilbao and Disney– it’s as if LV’s condition to Gehry was ‘how much Disney concert Hall/ Bilbao can we buy for $143m? i still admire him for the hutzpah it took to sell such an idea.
    ((a contrast to Gehry is Renzo Piano– now he’s the maestro of architecture who may be harder to pin down in the matter of having a ‘schtick’… but his NYC lower-west side work for the Whitney that i’m scheduled to visit next month has received lukewarm receptions. nevertheless, i’m a fan of his ugly Pompidou, his de Menil in Houston, his addition to Kahn’s in Ft Worth…))

    Like you, I chose to ignore [most of] the art at LV and focused on the building and how he shaped the interior spaces, + how he brought in natural light—issues that Piano addresses NOT peripherally.

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  4. The French may not have been exactly valiant at defending their homeland from neighbours’ incursions throughout their history but we have to step aside for their knack at peerless marketing and ostentation. Their choice often reflects stunning avanguardish sensibilities too as witness the Eiffel tower, the Centre Pompidou, La Défense and indeed the pyramid at the Louvre. Parisians thought the tower was an eyesore but objections to it slowly withered away with time. Passage of time would hopefully habituate the eyes too to the blight of the exposed ducts and pipes of Centre Pompidou. I don’t want to be shocked but I can’t wait either. Just don’t have the sensibility and the time. I go to Fouquet’s Vaux-le-Vicomte just fifty Km from Paris. This was the chateau and garden that provoked the owner’s own spectacular downfall through Louis XIV’s jealous cupidity. Or if you want to stay put in Paris, just stay in the newly opened Shangri-la or Mandarin. Both are equally épatant.

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