Architect Frank Gehry successfully met the challenge of designing the Foundation Louis Vuitton museum, as an institution that tangibly expresses the client’s commitment to art and culture, vis-à-vis 21st century architecture. The building comprises an assemblage of white blocks (known as “the icebergs”) clad in panels of fiber-reinforced concrete and surrounded by twelve immense glass “sails” supported by wooden beams. The sails gives the museum the transparency and sense of movement, while the modular design of the auditorium makes it an ideal venue for novel experiences and artistic encounters for the visitors.
More from the client:
« A Dream Come True » by Bernard Arnault
The Fondation Louis Vuitton opens an exciting new cultural chapter for Paris. It brings the city a new space devoted to art — especially contemporary art — and above all a place for meaningful exchanges between artists and visitors from Paris, from France, and from the entire world. By encouraging spontaneous dialogue, the new Fondation seeks to inspire both emotion and contemplation.
This is a distinctive cultural initiative because the Fondation is private. It has been made possible thanks to the corporate patronage of LVMH and the Group’s companies, notably Louis Vuitton, reflecting the values shared by all the people of LVMH and its shareholders. The Fondation tran-scends the ephemeral present by creating optimistic momentum and embodying a passion for artistic freedom. It is very much a dream come true. Indeed, the houses of the LVMH Group — Louis Vuitton in particular — have always thrived thanks to the excellence of their creations, and have thus long contributed to an art de vivre steeped in the humanist tradition.
Their success is deeply rooted in our artistic and cultural heritage. For many years I have sought to share this success with artists, creative talents, thinkers, and the general public, especially young people. Since 1991, when Jean-Paul Claverie joined us, LVMH has become one of France’s leading patrons of the arts, providing extensive support for cultural heritage programs and youth outreach initiatives, as well as humanitarian actions. We very early began exploring the idea of a foundation, an institution that would tangibly express our commitment to art and culture. We have never wavered from this course and now, in the autumn of 2014, we have sailed to our destination, making this dream a reality.
Following fruitful collaborations in the 1980s with artists such as Sol LeWitt, César and Olivier Debré, Louis Vuitton initiated a stimulating dialogue between the visual arts and the brand’s own creativity. Bob Wilson, Olafur Eliasson, and Ugo Rondinone decorated Christmas display windows, while Marc Jacobs asked Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and Yayoi Kusama to work directly on creations for Louis Vuitton. The result was a fresh and vibrant new vision of Louis Vuitton. LVMH’s many years of corporate patronage and Louis Vuitton’s collaborations with artists reso-nate powerfully with my personal passion for artistic creation. This passion is what fueled my decision to build the Fondation Louis Vuitton, bringing Paris a place that not only pays tribute to artists, but at the same time inspires them in a virtuous circle of creativity.
Frank Gehry is one of the greatest architects of our times, and I knew he would meet the challenge of designing an amazing monument of 21st century architecture. He proved a true visionary, embracing the values of excellence and unyielding professionalism that have always defined Louis Vuitton. His building is a veritable masterpiece and is itself the subject of the exhibition on the ground floor of the Fondation, designed specially for the opening by Frédéric Migayrou to offer insights into this remarkable work. This exhibit inspires an enriching dialogue with the retrospective of Frank Gehry’s work currently taking place, with our encouragement, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Frank Gehry’s building is in fact the first artistic statement by the Fondation, initiating an approach to artistic creativity that debuts with the public opening and will progressively affirm its vocation. The Fondation will devote itself above all to evolving trends in art and to contemporary creation. At the same time, it will propose a sense of historical perspective, notably vis-à-vis 20th century modern art. This will allow visitors to become more familiar with and approach newer creations. Indeed, looking at the past may be the best way to become more receptive to the most unexpected ideas. The Fondation Louis Vuitton invites us to see works and creations that have been collected or commissioned for their relevance to specific preferences and clearly expressed approaches.
Throughout autumn 2014 and in subsequent months, the Fondation will propose a diverse array of activities:
— The permanent collection, comprising works belonging to the Fondation or from my personal collection, will be displayed to emphasize the main identifying lines in a continuum from modern art to contemporary creativity. The collection will make a distinctive impression on visitors centered on a fundamental criterion, namely the ability to convey distinct viewpoints, whether transient or enduring, through individual works of art.
— Temporary exhibitions will be organized in conjunction with other public and private institutions, as well as private collections, with direct participation by the artists themselves.
— The Fondation will also welcome music, beginning with an inaugural performance by pianist Lang Lang and continuing with pioneering electronic band Kraftwerk in the Auditorium, a true jewelbox where canvases commissioned from Ellsworth Kelly are hung. Tarek Atoui and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster have been invited as well for performances in other spaces in the building. The modular design of Auditorium makes this an ideal venue for novel experiences and artistic encounters. The Fondation will of course welcome young audiences, as LVMH has done for years through our educational programs.
For the opening exhibition, the Fondation Louis Vuitton invites visitors on a “voyage of creativity” through a discovery of the architecture and emblematic works from the permanent collection, including creations by Frank Gehry to Gerhard Richter via Thomas Schütte, Pierre Huyghe, Christian Boltanski, Ellsworth Kelly, Olafur Eliasson, Sarah Morris, Adrián Villar Rojas, Bertrand Lavier, Taryn Simon, and many others. Each of them has contributed to the dynamics of our approach. I could never fully express our gratitude for their help in realizing the artistic endeavor led by Suzanne Pagé, with her widely-recognized experience and inventiveness, supported by the engagement of her entire team.
I would like to thank each of our visitors for the personal spirit of discovery that has drawn them here. My most sincere hope is that we are able to share the enthusiasm that has motivated all those who helped make this extraordinary project a reality.
I am reminded of something Picasso once said that might well have served as our inspiration throughout this project: “Art wipes the soul clean of the dust of everyday life. A cleansed soul restores enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is what we — and future generations — need most.”
Bernard Arnault President of the Fondation Louis Vuitton