Having previously enjoyed the hidden delights of James Turrell’s light field installation “Akhob” at the Louis Vuitton boutique on the Las Vegas Strip, I could not visit Paris without experiencing the grand-scale Frank-Gehry-designed art center Fondation Louis Vuitton. After taking the Metro to Les Sablons, and a five-minute stroll along the perimeter of Jardin d’Acclimatation, I am rewarded with my first glimpse of Gehry’s multi-paneled glass sails rising above the trees. The curved surfaces reflect muted versions of their surroundings, and the building itself is reflected in a large rectangular pool that descends in broad steppes to a narrow waterway surrounding the building perimeter. Gehry has stated:
“I dream of designing a magnificent vessel for Paris that symbolizes France’s profound cultural vocation”
Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s light and sound installation “Inside the horizon” takes full advantage of the reflecting pool, where 43 angled triangular columns are spaced to allow passage between them. Mirrored on two sides and with a mosaic of yellow glass on the third lit from within, the columns offer an interactive experience as the visitor moves through the space.
I find the terraced rooftop levels of the building equally seductive, with arched steel and timber beams framing panoramic vistas. Situated on an outdoor terrace is another commissioned work “Where the Slaves Live” by Argentinian artist Adrian Villar Rojas. Described as “a subtle hybrid of archaeology and science fiction”, this living sculpture is subject to change over time.
The summer exhibition “Art Afrique” encompasses all internal levels of the Fondation, and includes a selection of works from the Jean Pigozzi collection of contemporary African art alongside a focus on contemporary South African art and selected works from the Fondation collection. Artists with connections to twelve African nations are represented and include Wangechi Mutu, William Kentridge, Zanele Muholi and Chéri Samba.
Following on from the 2016 event “Bentu: Chinese artists in a time of turbulence and transformation”, “Art Afrique” continues the mission of the Fondation to actively support international contemporary creation. This dedication to bringing diverse peoples together to broaden cultural understanding seems more important now than ever.