From the moment I saw the small square of blue sky from the kitchen window, I decided to swing into action, the dishes from last night’s dinner party can wait.
I wanted to get out of the apartment and enjoy the weather. My time was running out and one thing that I definitely wanted to see before leaving Paris was the new Foundation Louis Vuitton.
Walking is getting a bit easier and slightly faster, so I decided to take a short detour before heading over to the Arc de Triomphe.
Place des Vosges was full of Parisians enjoying their sunny Saturday morning in the park that is surrounded by the historic arcaded square built by Henri IV.
Inaugurated in 1612 to celebrate the wedding of Louis the XIII and Anne of Austria, Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris.
Gorgeous at anytime of the year but the carefree atmosphere created by the weather coupled with being the weekend was palpable.
Lovers holding hands, children riding bikes in the empty fountain ponds, young women reading books, people walking their dogs or simply sitting and soaking up the sunshine, while the sun bounced off the red and white bricks.
I couldn’t have wished for a better day to visit the Foundation Louis Vuitton.
Excited by the chilly yet sunny day, my original plan was to walk from the metro through the sprawling Bois de Boulogne.
Bois de Boulogne is the second largest park in Paris, situated on the western edge of the 16th arrondissement and is only a 600 metre walk from the metro but after a little investigation, I learned that for 1 euro, I could take a small electric shuttle bus from the Arc de Triomphe which would deliver me to the entrance of the museum.
The bus runs every 15 minutes and within 2 minutes of me arriving at the stop I was silently whisked away with two others with only the sound of the tyres on the cobblestoned street.
Feeling like a kid who had finally arrived at an exciting destination after a five hour road trip, continually asking ‘are we there yet’.
Look look, there it is, I wanted to shout out to the couple seated nearby, engrossed in conversation and not looking out the window.
The queue ran down the entire length of the side of the building but I didn’t want to join it yet.
Assuming I would spend quite a few hours, if not the entire day there, I didn’t want to miss photographing the enormous white structure against a back drop of blue sky.
Observing the tall handsome and stylish security guards clad in black suits, looking like they had stepped off the set of a James Bond movie, I wondered if the label inside the jacket read Louis Vuitton, my guess is, it did.
Louis Vuitton has a gallery in their flagship store on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées which I have been meaning to visit for a couple of years now but still haven’t managed to fit it into my busy schedule when I am in Paris.
During my Paris Adèle research leading up to this current trip I noted that this year, I should make the effort to check out the gallery and stumbled across their new Foundation Louis Vuitton which was due to open in October of 2014, which was perfect timing for my upcoming trip. Following it’s progress and all the hype had me excited.
What is all the fuss about and what is it?
Foundation Louis Vuitton (Fondation Louis Vuitton) is a private museum for contemporary art owned by the LVMH group also known as LVMH Moët Hennessy.
In 1987 Louis Vuitton the fashion brand and Moët & Chandon and Hennessy, (who had merged 10 years earlier) merged, becoming a massive multi-national group owning over 60 high end luxury brands and employing over 83,000 people.
Some of the brands that they own or manage major shares of include; Veuve Clicquot, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Givenchy, Guerlain, Dior, Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Sephora, DFS Galleria, for next time you are buying duty free, the high end department store Bon Marchè, the former La Samaritaine department store, which they are in the process of developing into an exclusive shopping centre, hotel and apartments and wait for it all you Australian’s out there; the iconic riding boot company; R.M. Williams.
LVMH commissioned the 85 year old, Canadian born architect, Frank Gehry who has the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Dancing House in Prague, and the soon to open Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, a new wing at the Sydney University of Technology, just to name a mere few, under his belt.
(you can click on the links in pink above for more information)
As luck would have it The Pompidou Centre had a retrospective on Frank Gehry’s work which I visited this trip. It included a room full of the above mentioned building’s models and more!
Frank Gehry is famous for his architectural process of building a large collection of models for his clients, allowing them to view all aspects of his designs.
Viewing the Foundation Louis Vuitton’s model was an enticing entrée before my visit to the real thing.
After snapping away a multitude of images, from every angle possible from the outside, I questioned myself – seriously, how many photos do you really need of this building? Ok, I was excited and caught up in the hype but finally I joined the long queue and settled down for a long wait in the chilly breeze that was slicing through the large open spaces.
Ten minutes later I was in!
Where to begin, I had no idea but streaming across the large visual monitors in the foyer publicised free wi-fi and an app, although at the time my iphone told me that it was only available for ipads, I have since downloaded the application.
Deciding not to pick up a map because I wanted to let the building lead me on the tour. My thoughts are that a gallery or museum should intuitively take you on a journey.
To the right was a sign Galleries and to the left Auditorium. I opted for Auditorium and came across a 350 seat auditorium with a piano tuner, tinkering away at a grand piano with a backdrop of views out to the park and a cascade of water rippling down the stairs to a pond.
Spying a glass lift I ended up on the top floor with views of La Défense; Paris’ business district and the Eiffel Tower.
Following my nose, I explored the open spaces, views and architecture of the building.
Apologies for the overload of images but a couple of architects follow my blog and the structural detail may be of interest to them.
What was my impression thus far?
Viewed from the outside the large glass sails, gave an impression of a large ship about to set sail but also for me I could see elements of the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
Descending series of stairs, exploring more open spaces and the white tiling gave me an impression that this building would be more at home in a tropical climate.
Set up high, combined with the height of the overhanging structure, would allow cool breezes to pass through.
I wondered if I had chosen a wet and windy day to visit, whether the people discovering the outdoor area would be tucked away inside, away from the elements.
The open spaces lacked something, maybe performance art or the ability to visit and enjoy the space for a springtime picnic but would you pay 14 euros for the privilege?
The building has only been open for 3 months, it is early days. Maybe they will commission outdoor sculptures at a later date but so far, I was still excited and enjoying the experience.
Finally back inside, I found some art.
A large sculpture of a water diviner; Man in Mud by German contemporary artist Thomas Schütte and computerised glass flutes suspended from the ceiling by Welsh artist Cerith Wyn Evans, seemed to sing when activated by movement was pretty cool.
Arriving back to the foyer, the line up for the café was short and I was hungry, it was a bit more expensive than I hoped but I wanted to enjoy the entire experience and was certain that the food would be as good as the café appeared to be.
I think I had missed the lunch time menu and had to settle for the afternoon menu, I could have had a ham and cheese baguette for 14 euros but for an extra 4 euros, I settled on the caesar salad figuring it would be more filling.
It looked impressive when it was placed in front of me while I was sitting up to the bar, sipping on a glass of wine next to a very uptight looking woman beside me.
This is how it should be done, a civilised museum experience.
Pulling back the thin slice of wafer, excited to discover what could be hiding underneath, clearly this was a modern and innovative version of a caesar salad. It revealed four small lettuce hearts, not even separated with a flood of dressing and 5 pieces of tasty but small pieces of chicken, I probably looked as uptight as my neighbour by this stage.
You have to be kidding me. 18 euros for that and they didn’t even offer me a bread basket.
That, was really disappointing. I expected much better than that.
Normally I save museum visits for rainy days but I had especially wanted to visit Foundation Louis Vuitton on a blue sky day to highlight the white building against the sky and although I was inside for a good part of the day, sitting in the café, still hungry, at least I could see the beautiful sunny day through the glass.
Hang on a minute, I have spent half a day here and I still haven’t seen any art, well a couple of pieces, not a museum full of art.
Earlier, en route to the shuttle bus, I excitedly snapped a quick photo of the Arc de Triomphe and posted on my Instagram account announcing; I am excited, I am heading off to Foundation Louis Vuitton!
Taking the opportunity to make use of the free wi-fi, although if you count the cost of the entrance fee and the 18 euro piece of lettuce, disguised as lunch, the wi-fi was barely free, I check my Instagram account.
A message from a person I follow and enjoy their architectural shots had left a message. We have swapped comments before about Parisian museums and sometimes our opinions differ. The message read, I’m waiting to know your opinion on it. No hints as to whether he liked the museum.
Where is the art? I send a message back and giving in, study the map that I had picked up before entering the café.
Clearly a sign stating Galleries means um …. gallery. Silly me.
Viewing the temporary Frank Gehry exhibition revealed more models of the building which gave me a better perspective now I was in the museum itself.
The lobby, containing the main entrance, café and store splits the museum into two. One side the art galleries the other the images that you saw above.
Finally I could see some art. My personal taste in art liked some but not all of the temporary exhibition but Danish-Icelandic artist; Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Contact’ was very cool indeed.
Contact can be a smile, a greeting, touch or simply reaching out to someone, Olafur Eliasson says.
With his use of light and shadows, as we were lead through a series of rooms was like an other worldly experience.
Trés cool! Superb!
Whether I saw the entire building and all the exhibitions on offer I am not sure but it was time for me to leave.
I wanted to observe what happens when the changing light bounced off the building before the sunset.
I imagine that a pink sky sunset would have it looking quite spectacular from what I viewed.
Patiently, I waited, assuming like the rest of Paris, it would light up like a Christmas tree, whether I didn’t wait long enough, or I assumed incorrectly, I couldn’t cope with the cold any longer.
It was freezing!
The building from the outside is impressive but I am still undecided whether the space inside is enough, when only half of the building is dedicated to galleries for contemporary art.
For me, it seemed like a building designed for a public area, but what would I know.
Happy that I was the third person in the queue as 30 or so other people gathered around for the bus meant I would be whisked off shortly in the small electric shuttle bus.
Parisian women have a bad habit of queue jumping, at the same time wearing an innocent expression of a cherub.
Oh la la – it was like a pack fight when the bus arrived, pushing and shoving I nearly got trampled to death, unbelievable. If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. I shoved my way in and secured a nice spot near the heater. Packed in like sardines, it was a different journey from the way in.
I think if I could speak French, I would have given them a piece of my mind but I had a good day and I am glad that I visited The Foundation Louis Vuitton. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed.
Paris Adèle’s Information Nécessaire:
Fondation Louis Vuitton – Official Website in English and five other languages.
8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
Bois de Boulogne 75116
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
12 noon to 7pm
12 noon to 11pm
Saturday & Sunday
11am to 8pm
Cost: 14 euros
Avoid queues by purchasing on-line or purchasing at ticket machine with a card
Les Sablons – Metro Line 1
Take the Fondation Louis Vuitton Exit
600 metres 10 minute walk
By Shuttle Bus:
Take metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoile Metro
Take Avenue de Friedland Exit
Bus departs from Avenue de Friedland – look for bus signage
Buses depart every 15 minutes
Last bus leaves the museum 7 minutes after closing
Note: bus leaves the museum from the same spot it arrives (not from over the road)
Cost: 1 euro each way
By Velib (city bicycle for hire)
bike station located in front of museum
Olafur Eliasson – very cool official website
Place des Vosges – MAP