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Foundation Louis Vuitton Opens in Paris

 Foundation Louis Vuitton

 When we were in Paris in the spring and mentioned to Parisians that we encountered that we planned to spend a day at the new Frank Gehry designed Art Center built by Foundation Louis Vuitton, we got the same response.


“It’s all about the building, not the art.”


In a city chock-a-block full of both museums and art this is an interesting comment.  After spending a day meandering the massive structure on the outskirts of the City of Light, we agreed.

“It’s all about the building, not the art.”

This idea was reinforced by fact that the permanent collection wasn’t even on view.  We were only able to see a less than impressive temporary exhibition because the main galleries were all closed.  Since the museum had been open for six months, we weren’t sure why.

But the building is spectacular.    We amused ourselves for the better part of a day exploring it’s ups and downs, ins and outs.  Enjoyed seeing the vintage food truck in the front of the building.


 The Foundation Louis Vuitton building is the brainchild of Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton.    Arnault met Gehry, the architect, in 2001 and the idea of creating an institution to house the LVHM’s art collection emerged.  Gehry started designing in 2004.    It took well over a decade, but the 25,000 square foot, 2.5 tory soaring glass and steel structure was built in the Bois de Boulogne park in the 16th ARR and opened last fall.

The Park has been around since 1860, housing a zoological garden, puppet theater, center for all kinds of games, a house of mirrors and even a bowling alley.

So, let’s talk about the building, designed by the Starchitect , Frank Gehry,  known for buildings with swoops and swirls.

The theme of the building is a huge ship.

It’s actually a building within a building–allowing for the soaring glass overlapping panels and yet spaces with walls inside for hanging art. The large sections of glass look like sails with the support systems feeling like masts and rigging.   The front of the building hovers over a waterfall like the bow of a boat over water.  It is a meditative spot for one visitor.




The main material is glass, possibly inspired by the glass I.M Pei Pyramid at the Louvre and the Grand Palais with its huge glass dome.  Paris has a long love affair with this material.

I loved the huge fish figures hanging from the ceiling in the cafe where we enjoyed lunch. I don’t know if it was more fun to eat the lovely meal or take photos of the fish.  We learned that there are a lot of dining venues in the adjoining park to try next trip.  Maybe the permanent collection will be open then. I also liked the huge rose at the entrance.




The spaces and angles and interior and exterior views are fascinating.  From the roof top terrace we could look back at Paris and see the Eiffel Tower and down in the park to see rows of trampolines.




 The multi-layered roof top terrace invites one to wander around the sculpture named the Ice Cube and over to the far side to see a sculpture called “Where the Slaves Live.”  It appeared to be a huge casket type shape filled with dirt and found objects.  Visitors took photos from every angle.





 I loved the multipurpose room, with views of the waterfall and graphics that make me think of Apple Computer.  Could this fit into the new Cupertino headquarters?



My favorite part of the building was on the lowest level and named The Grotto.  One could meander around water and tall lighted panels.  The angles and reflections had other guests and me mesmerized snapping photos from a variety of angles.



 They seemed to rotate and when they did, a series of mirrors emerged, reminding me of my childhood visits to the Fun House at the Benton Harbor based amusement park, Silver Beach.

We could shoot multiples of our selves in the mirrors…….an updated version of the old fashioned treasure.



 For another blog post about a different ship, look at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.

Funny moment: as we were leaving the museum a marching band appeared.  It was a Navy band based in San Diego, a long ways from home.  It was great to hear lively American music as we meandered in a Paris park.



Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Jun 30, 2015 Reply

    Wow – Amazing – yet another reason to go to Paris! Not that I needed one.

  2. posted by
    Michelle Slikkers
    Jun 30, 2015 Reply

    Susan, once again you delight us with your magical photography and commentary. Thank you for bringing this adventure to us.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 6, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Michelle,
      This was a very interesting experience. As everyone we encountered, “It wasn’t about the art.” The architects get a lot of criticism for buildings like this. Too showy. Not appropriate. I enjoyed it.

  3. posted by
    JoAnne Tompkins
    Jun 30, 2015 Reply

    Spectacular photos. What an amazing building. You’ve given us another reason to return to Paris! Thanks, Susan.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 6, 2015 Reply

      I think the thing I love about Paris is that there is always something new to see and do. I keep a running list of “things to do on next trip to Paris” and I can never do them all. For example, on this trip we didn’t get to the re-opened Picasso Museum. It’s been in stages of renovation for five years. Lots of Hoop-de-do about it. It’s on my “next trip to Paris” list.

  4. posted by
    Kati Boland
    Jun 30, 2015 Reply

    SPECTACULAR… and your photos do it great justice. Look forward to seeing it
    one day soon. Many thanks!! Kati

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 6, 2015 Reply

      Hope a trip to Paris is on your schedule. I know you’d be interested in this one with your museum back ground and interest.

  5. posted by
    Melanie Rogers
    Jul 1, 2015 Reply

    Thanks for posting this!!! I haven’t been able to get enough of the shots of this amazing building, and these are the first I’ve seen of any of the art installations. You have some wonderful shots and angles, as usual!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Jul 6, 2015 Reply

      Thanks, Melanie. I appreciate your kind comments.

  6. posted by
    Warren Rempel
    Jul 6, 2015 Reply

    Wonderful photos of another striking Gehry museum. Unfortunately, this one seems to suffer from the same ailment from which most of his other buildings suffer… “Starchitect Syndrome”. We saw the similarly gorgeous Bilbao Museum a couple of years ago and the only work that ‘stood up’ to the architecture was the striking Richard Sera sculptures on the main level. Everything else was dwarfed by the building or simply overwhelmed by its dynamic forms. The other exception was the exterior sculpture – Jeff Koon’s “Tulips” and “Puppy”, Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman” Spider, and “Tall Tree and the Eye” by Anish Kapoor.

    I think the exterior is a much better backdrop than the interior, probably because there’s enough space to prevent the works from being so completely dominated.

    It seems that, in order to be successful, a museum should possess a certain degree of serenity, and I don’t think this word is in Gehry’s design vocabulary!!

  7. posted by
    Parc Monceau: Non-touristy Parisian neighborhood | DesignDestinations
    Apr 28, 2016 Reply

    […] If you like architecture, you might enjoy the blog post about the new Foundation Louis Vuitton. Click here.  […]

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