Created as a space to celebrate artistic creation in all its forms, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which opened its doors for the first time this week, was commissioned by LVMH Chair Bernard Arnault and designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, who was inspired by the lightness of 19th century glass and garden architecture. Located within the fields of the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, the Fondation is the first privately funded major cultural institution in France. (LVMH managed to sidestep the usual bureaucratic objections by building the structure, complete with twelve curving glass sails, in a public park. Moreover, as part of an agreement with the city for the plot, ownership of the museum will vest in the city of Paris in 55 years).
Bloomberg put it quite well, in describing the Fondation, its purpose and the man behind the LVMH conglomerate, writing: "It’s part of an image overhaul. In France, Arnault is known as a ruthless businessman who descends upon and snatches up family-run luxury businesses at the first sign of weakness. The museum is one part of a PR campaign to show Arnault’s softer side and his commitment to culture and heritage."
Inside, eleven exhibition galleries will host both temporary and permanent shows, from the Fondation's collection. The space also includes an auditorium, meeting rooms, a café, a bookshop and education facilities. Works form Mark Rothko, Yves Klein and Jean-Michel Basquiat will sit alongside those from Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons in the permanent collection, as well as Takashi Murakami, who famously collaborated with Marc Jacobs during his long tenure as creative director at Louis Vuitton. The permanent collection includes cover pop art, expressionism and sound with new exhibits from Mona Hatoum, Ellsworth Kelly, Bertrand Lavier and Olafur Eliasson rolling out over the next year. And last but not least, the Fondation will house future Louis Vuitton fashion shows.
Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Dior’s Raf Simons and Kris Van Assche, Chloe’s Phoebe Philo, and Louis Vuitton's Nicolas Ghesquiere joined French President Francois Hollande at a celebration last week ahead of the museum official opening on Monday.