Visitors to the Louvre in Paris are being greeted with an unfamiliar sight: IM Pei's iconic glass pyramid, a Parisian landmark that has served as the renowned museum's entrance since 1989, is still there, but you'd be forgiven for being confused, thanks to a clever street art piece from JR.
The French street artist has created a striking optical illusion by covering the pyramid with a gigantic paper photograph of the museum. If viewers stand at the right angle, aligning the image with the building behind it, the pyramid appears to disappear, fading into the museum's façade.
A fan of Pei's, JR was inspired to work with his best-known architectural project. "I was impressed by his willingness to make the pyramid discreet: he wanted it to blend into its environment," the artist told artnet News in an email.
"Hundreds of tourists take selfies with the pyramid everyday, so I wanted to make it harder for them by removing the pyramid, so that they actively look for it and move around to find the best spot to take the picture," JR added.
The project, which is the first by JR not to feature faces, is currently being installed and should be complete by Wednesday, May 25. The artist's trompe l'oeil intervention is a response to Pei's once-controversial design.
Today, it's easy to forget that the initial response to Pei's glass and metal pyramid was less-than positive. A 1985 article in The New York Times noted that the project, then under construction, had been called "an architectural joke, an eyesore, an anachronistic intrusion of Egyptian death symbolism in the middle of Paris, and a megalomaniacal folly."
Despite the push-back, Emile Biasini, who directed the renovation project, was confident of its eventual success, telling the Times "in ten years, I assure you that all the arguments will have been forgotten. The pyramid will be there and the French will regard it as another one of their classics." His words have proved prescient.
"At the beginning it was criticized, now it is widely accepted," JR told the Wall Street Journal. "I thought it would be fun to show how the Louvre would look like without it."
See more photos of the installation below.
"JR at the Louvre" is on view at the Louvre, May 25–June 27, 2016.