Inside Louis Vuitton Foundation

By Marisol Salanova

Museums, opera houses, and the like are generally considered to contain art but not being art in itself. At a time when the architecture has a lot of artistic is not easy to find harmony. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, unveiled by Frank Gehry in 1997, was a great example of that. But now on this issue all eyes are on Paris. Gehry was there now just a year ago with two new projects which are growing up: the long-awaited Fondation Louis Vuitton which looks like an urban sculpture including 11 gallery spaces spread over multiple levels with much of the Fondation’s permanent art collection, and a retrospective of his life's work at the Centre Pompidou.

Over the years many adjectives have been used to describe Gehry's creations, anything but ordinary. His living spaces are warmed by textures and organic reminiscences. The architect, as an artist, is itching to experiment, however creating a museum functionality is the focus. It needs space for the exhibitions, the visitors should be confortable and so on. Set in a public park in the Bois de Boulogne in the western part of Paris, the glass structure echoes 19th-century glass garden buildings with some maritime imagery. It’s part of an image overhaul of Louis Vuitton-Möet Hennessy (LVMH) so the relationship with fashion and art world is clear. This new captivating centre for contemporary art challenges and stimulates our perception of what an art gallery should be. The spaces are more dynamic than ever, in fact they can be used to house various cultural activities, not necessarily the traditional way of exhibiting art.

Relational Aesthetics has suggested that the artwork creates a social environment in which people come together to participate in a shared activity. An inside look at the Louis Vuitton Foundation make us think about it. Gehry calls the rectangular blocks containing the gallery spaces “icebergs”, he designed that sort of icebergs trying to find a language for architecture that makes sense of movement in an era that's all about movement, and inside this icebergs is where everything happens: a Boltanski's triple video projection about life, death and memory, an amazing Pierre Huyghe's film with penguins, Thomas Schütte's giant sculpture of a quirky man, a hybrid between painting and sculpture by Bertrand Lavier or a grotto installation by Olafur Eliasson. And it's just getting started, highlights of the LVMH collection includes works by Gilbert & George, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons.

It should be emphasized that Ellsworth Kelly has created a specific, comprehensive and permanent intervention for the Auditorium consisting of 12 big coloured strips. Kelly's is the most photographed work by visitors to date, especially by smartphones in self-portrait mode, the front-facing camera selfie. According to Nicolas Bourriaud, relational art encompasses a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space. From the roof to the basement Fondation Louis Vuitton is an example of private institution that opens its doors to the participatory public sphere in a stimulating way.

There are relatively few private museums in France, and in building this one Bernard Arnault, Chairman & Chief executive officer of LVMH who's also a major collector, was hoping to reinforce a connection between his company and advanced art and design so he opted for Ghery to build the ideal place to display the luxury firm's collection. Art is inherently subjective as its interpretations are mostly based on the perspective of the viewer. It behooves us as viewers of art to interpret it with a critical eye, thinking carefully and crossing it because here the building itself is art and what it contains too.

*First time this article was published in Ivorypress magazine Turn On Art.