Fondation Louis Vuitton: Thumbs Up and Up Yours
There isn’t a single view from any point inside or outside of Frank Gehry’s Fondation Louis Vuitton that isn’t absolutely stunning. The art collection will make you yawn, but the building is what it’s all about.
I ordered up tickets in advance to avoid waiting in a long line and made it easy to arrive there by taking a taxi instead of battling the public transportation. If you prefer the challenge and you don’t have a car, then take the Métro Line 1 to Les Sablons, follow the “Fondation Louis Vuitton” exit then walk 10 to 15 minutes from the station. For €1 there is a shuttle that departs Place Charles de Gaulle, on the corner of Avenue de Friedland, near the Métro exit that runs every 15 minutes. And if by bike, there is a Vélib’ station in front of the Fondation entrance at 8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi. By bus, the #244 goes there, but weekends only. By car, you still have to park either on the streets of the Bois de Boulogne or in a public lot at Porte Maillot.
Now you know why we took a taxi — it makes your life simple. And it’s well worth it.
Everyone has written about the new building, so there isn’t that much to add, except for one or two small criticisms, since the experience is near to perfect. The architecture is sheer eye candy and the space open and inviting. Regardless of how many people are being fed into the elaborate structure of metal and glass, it never feels crowded thanks to broad staircases and large spacious galleries which move freely between one another and to connecting halls. There are elevators and bathrooms everywhere. One has the feeling of floating from point to point.
The exhibition of Gehry’s models in Galerie 4 is almost as exciting as the building itself, so be sure not to miss it. It takes you from conception to completion in the form of drawings, photos and models produced during the project with one large model in the center of the gallery — itself a work of art.
I got a real chuckle last week when Frank Gehry shot a bird finger to a journalist during a press conference who accused him of creating architecture for show. At 85, the man is still full of spunk and had the gumption to respond with these very direct words: “Let me tell you one thing,” Gehry said, “In this world we are living in, ninety-eight per cent of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.” He added, pleading, “Once in a while, however, a group of people do something special. Very few, but God, leave us alone.”
He did apologize later for the gesture, citing jet lag as the reason for having a “bad moment,” but I doubt that was the truth. My guess is that at this stage in his life and career, he feels the criticism is hardly justified. I liked him even more for it and a bit jealous — when at 85 you can care so little of what other people think, especially the press!
Nonetheless, there are a few points of criticism which will likely get dealt with as time goes on. The café at the entrance is a marvelous place to be, under the floating white fish surrounded by the museum’s web-like glass walls, but it’s not for the average museum-goer. The cuisine of “Le Frank” is in the hands of the talented chef Jean-Louis Nomicos and the meal is a bit pricey — €28 for the lunch “formule.” There is no other place to take a coffee or light fare other than in the adjoining “Jardin d’Acclimation.”
The bookshop is filled with fun books, many of which are published by Louis Vuitton itself (is there anything they don’t do?), but where are the usual “tchotchkes” — the small mementos one wants to take home from such an experience? It has been noticeable that the museums in France generally do a pretty shoddy job of retailing based on their works of art, but this is not surprising when one considers the anti-capitalistic culture. I was hoping Louis Vuitton would have a broader vision, but so far it seems not, as the shop space is small. This is also true for the new Musée Picasso’s shop — hardly worth a visit!
Other than this, the building is a delight and pleasure to be in or be outside looking in. The city and its residents and visitors will surely reap the rewards of it, thanks to the vision of the foundation and of Frank Gehry to whom we must be grateful.
A la prochaine,
(Halloween at Club Rayé)
Respond to Adrian
P.S. Photographer Michael Honegger extends a big thank you to the many Parler Paris Readers who voted for his photograph “The Red Shoe” in the Photo District News’ “Objects of Desire” competition. With your votes, this photograph (taken in my own bathroom!) was the People’s Choice Award winner and will be published in the November issue of Photo District News. He thanks you and so do we!
P.P.S. This is “Mois de la Photo” and the beginning of the gift giving holiday season, so take advantage of photographer Erica Simone’s offering for sale a selection of unique prints, significantly discounted from gallery prices. All prints are quality archival, signed, artist proof C-prints, available first come, first serve. See all of her offerings