A dozen years and some $135 million in the making, the Fondation is like no other museum in the world. It’s entirely private, supported by LMVH and Bernard Arnault and showcases contemporary art in a remarkably distinctive structure.
Designed by Frank Gehry in his usual opulent architectural language, the museum even outshines his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. “The original idea was to build a place of movement. It’s like a cloud; it changes,” said the architect of the building’s exterior, notably the enormous panels of milky glass that resemble the sails of a ship. Now, running from the 11th of Mai 2016 trough the end of the year, the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s 12 glass-paneled “sails” are covered with a checkerboard of translucent colored gels, punctuated by panes of white stripes.
The “Observatory of Light” is an installation by none other than conceptual artist Daniel Buren. Since the 1960s, the French artist has been applying stripes in varying colors, sizes and materials to assorted objects and environments, including bridges, bus stops and museum walls, becoming the main representative of the French Minimal Art.
Mr. Buren has described his signature stripes as a “visual tool” he uses to draw attention to a given space or context. “Here, they are always pointing toward the ground, creating the only system of verticality,” he said. “Because, as you already saw, there are not too many vertical things in this building. So the stripes are spatial anchors, in a way.”
Seen from the outside, the bright panels pick up hues and textures present in their surroundings: green expanses of forest, the red of neighboring buildings. “The colors go anywhere the sun hits,” Mr. Buren said, “so as it moves throughout the day, they might end up on the reflecting pool outside at one moment, or on the grass. It travels.”
Mr. Buren has other plans for the Louis Vuitton Foundation. On June 2 to 4, he will stage a series of performances in what he calls the “BurenCirque” in three tents on the building’s lawn. “This circus has nothing to do with the circus you saw when you were young,” he said, describing the events as “somewhere between poetry and philosophy.”
Inside each tent, which can accommodate up to 150 people, Mr. Buren has asked his performers to react to the space — a square, topped by a cone — and to the expanses of primary colors. The shows will take place simultaneously, so that sounds from one will be audible in the next, creating a multisensory experience.
Actually, the minimalism has past it’s prime and even the post-minimalists are no youngsters anymore. They fell into oblivion over the past years but we can tell that there’s a reawakening going on in Paris, or at least in the Bois de Boulogne where the Neo-Baroque is erupting. The “Observatory of Light” brings Buren’s minimalist ideas to present. The sunlight falling through the sail almost raises sacral effects in the interior of the Museum.
The building was designed by Frank Gehry to allow artists to work in between the glass and the solid parts of the Museum – the icebergs. He had always hoped that the foundation would allow artists to take on the space in different ways. Knowing Daniel Buren for more than four decades and being familiar to his work, Mr. Gehry knew his approach to the subject would not be timid – and he was right!
The “Observatory of Light” has become a wonderful yet temporary locus, where architecture and art have merged solely for the purpose of light to reign.