Vuitton Foundation unveils preview of its collection

A giant sculpture by Thomas Schütte, a video by Christian Boltanski: the Louis Vuitton Foundation, located in a building designed by Frank Gehry that resembles a glass ship, has offered a preview of the collection that it will open to the public in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne on October 27.

The giant sculpture by Thomas Schütte | Source: Louis Vuitton Foundation

Kicking off an exceptional cultural week that includes the FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) and the reopening of the Musée Picasso after five years of renovations, the foundation will be inaugurated on Monday by President Francois Hollande. 

Its public opening on October 27 will be preceded by three special open days (by reservation on the 24, 25 and 26). 

Both complex and extremely fluid, the building designed by Frank Gehry, built on a narrow plot on the edge of the Jardin d'acclimatation (a children’s amusement park with a zoo), is in fact the first masterpiece of the foundation, which is holding an exhibition focused on the structure’s genesis. 

"It doesn’t look finished, purposefully, to encourage people to interact with it over time," said Frank Gehry at a press conference on Friday. "I look and I see everything I'd like to change. Seven years later, I have different ideas," joked the architect, who is the subject of a retrospective at the Pompidou Center.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation building

Twelve glass sails cover the foundation, each of a different shape and curvature. They are composed of more than 3,800 glass panels that float over the body of the building - "the iceberg", in the words of the architect – all supported by a sophisticated set of steel and wooden beams.

At the top, there are several large terraces connected by stairs on different levels offering glimpses of the Bois de Boulogne, the skyscrapers at la Defense and the Eiffel Tower. 

At the bow of the "ship” there is an auditorium with bay windows that look out over an immense stepped waterfall sourcing a moat.

“Something rather important soon became clear,” said Jean-Paul Claverie, adviser to LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault. “We did not have the technology to construct this building. It took two years of study and research, gathering a team of more than a hundred top-level engineers to invent the technology to carry out the artist’s vision," resulting in “the filing of thirty patents." 

In total, eleven galleries (four large and one open-air) cover 38,000 ft2 in a building with 125,000 ft2 of floor space and a 48,000-ft2 footprint. The structure can accommodate 1,600 visitors at any one time and expects 700,000 to 800,000 entries per year.

LVMH has disclosed neither the budget, nor the cost of the building, which has been funded by various companies that make up the group overseen by Bernard Arnault, whose biggest rival, François Pinault, opened a personal (non-corporate) foundation at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2005. 

For the inauguration, the artistic director of the foundation, Suzanne Pagé, who has advised Bernard Arnault since 2006, has commissioned six works that resonate with the building's architecture. 

The Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, who will have his own solo exhibition at the foundation in December, has designed a kind of kaleidoscope of mirrors immersed in a yellow, luminous atmosphere that reflects the water in a pool. 

Pagé, the former director of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, has also prepared an initial “selection of iconic works" from the collection, featuring six artists including Christian Boltanski, Pierre Huyghe, Gerhard Richter and Thomas Schütte, with a striking "Man in the mud" giant. 

As with the Jardin d’acclimatation, which is also owned by LVMH, the land on which the foundation rests belongs to the City of Paris. 

Under a 55-year lease, the foundation pays a fee to the city, which will then obtain ownership of the building at the end of that period. 

François Pinault, meanwhile, abandoned plans to establish his foundation on l’île Seguin, in Boulogne-Billancourt (just outside Paris’ city limits) in 2005. In 2009, he created another contemporary art center in Venice at the Punta della Dogana.

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