La Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

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Oops! I fell way behind on posting my Paris adventures!  Let me start again now!

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The Louis Vuitton Foundation, in French: La Fondation Louis Vuitton, has its home in a spectacular building in the 16th arrondissement, Paris, France. This building serves as an art museum and cultural center, sponsored by the group LVMH and its subsidiaries. It is run as a legally separate, nonprofit entity as part of LVMH’s promotion of art and culture.  And isn’t the world lucky for all of that!

 

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In 2001, Bernard Arnault, the Chairman of LVMH, met world-renowned architect, Frank Gehry, and told him of plans for a new building for the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. Suzanne Pagé, then director of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, was named the foundation’s artistic director in charge of developing the museum’s program.

Not everything went according to plan.

The city of Paris, which owns the park, granted a building permit in 2007. In 2011, an association for the safeguard of the Bois de Boulogne won a court battle, as the judge ruled the centre had been built too close to a tiny asphalt road deemed a public right of way.

Opponents to the site had also complained that a new building would disrupt the verdant peace of the historic park.

The city appealed the court decision and eventually a special law was passed by the Assemblée Nationale that the Fondation was in the national interest and “a major work of art for the whole world,” which allowed it to proceed.

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I believe I was very fortunate to visit La Fondation on a clear, sunny day (because, believe me…some of the days were cold and cloudy during my visit), and because I was able to see the exhibit from London’s Courtauld Institute.  I’ll post about the exhibit itself another day. My focus today is on the incredible building itself.

 

 

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The Fondation Louis Vuitton is located on prime property in Paris, next to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, the famous park on the west side of the Capitol city. Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie opened the Jardin d’Acclimatation in October 1860. They thus provided the Paris they were intent on rebuilding with a landscaped park designed in accordance with the model of English gardens that they so admired.

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The building soars!

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And it frames the sky and the park and city beyond it:

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The following paragraphs are taken from the Fondation’s website:

“From an initial sketch drawn on a blank page in a notebook, to the transparent cloud sitting at the edge of the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, Frank Gehry constantly sought to “design, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolising the cultural calling of France.”

:A creator of dreams, he has designed a unique, emblematic and bold building.

Respectful of a history rooted in French culture of the 19th century, Frank Gehry dared to use technological achievements of the 21st century, opening the way for pioneering innovation.”

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“Frank Gehry retained from the 19th century the transparent lightness of glass walls and the taste for walks punctuated by surprises.
“His architecture combines a traditional “art de vivre”, visionary daring and the innovation offered by modern technology.

“From the invention of glass curved to the nearest millimetre for the 3,600 panels that form the Fondation’s twelve sails to the 19,000 panels of Ductal (fibre-reinforced concrete), each one unique, that give the iceberg its immaculate whiteness, and not forgetting a totally new design process, each stage of construction pushed back the boundaries of conventional architecture to create a unique building that is the realisation of a dream.”

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“This great architectural exploit has already taken its place among the iconic works of 21st-century architecture. Frank Gehry’s building, which reveals forms never previously imagined until today, is the reflection of the unique, creative and innovative project that is the Fondation Louis Vuitton.

“To produce his first sketches, Frank Gehry took his inspiration from the lightness of late 19th-century glass and garden architecture. The architect then produced numerous models in wood, plastic and aluminium, playing with the lines and shapes, investing his future building with a certain sense of movement. The choice of materials became self-evident: an envelope of glass would cover the body of the building, an assembly of blocks referred to as the “iceberg”, and would give it its volume and its vitality.

“Placed in a basin specially created for the purpose, the building fits easily into the natural environment, between woods and garden, while at the same time playing with light and mirror effects. The final model was then scanned to provide the digital model for the project.”

 

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A modern Parisian fountain: a new take on an old form

One of the many delights of Paris is the Fondation Louis-Vuitton pour la création with its exhibition spaces and fountain.  I’ll be posting soon about the building itself, by Frank Gehry. But for now, I want to focus only on the water.

 

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The water is also inside the building, sort of.  The sound of the water from inside the building reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Pennsylvania: Falling Water.

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Atelier des Lumières, Paris

Paris has been coming at me so fast and furiously for the past 10 days or so that I am struggling to stay on top of my thousands of photos and stories as I engage with this incredible city.  Yesterday I attended a showing at the Atleliers des Luminieres, Fonderie du Chemin-Vert.  Wow.  Pretty cool!

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So, have you heard about these immersive art and music extravaganzas?  The one in Paris uses the same format already devised and shown in the Carrières de Lumières at the old quarries in Les Baux de Provence. (In 2011, the town of Les Baux-de-Provence entrusted Culturespaces with the management of its famous quarry as part of a public services contract. Named “Carrières de Lumières,” it is a fantastic laboratory of creativity: Culturespaces has developed the innovative concept known as AMIEX® [Art & Music Immersive Experience]).  There are similar shows done in an old church in Florence, Italy as well.

The digital exhibitions are made up of thousands of images of digitized works of art, broadcast in very high resolution via fiber optics, and set in motion to the rhythm of music. It takes 140 projectors and a careful orchestration of sound to create an exhibition.

Not everyone in the art world has welcomed this sort of “millennial” approach to the arts; but Culturespaces argue that the target audience for these immersive exhibitions is not connoisseurs of the art world, but rather families and young people who are not used to visiting museums. The Atelier’s first year statistics seem to show the exhibitions are reaching their target: in first year of operation, the Atelier des Lumières welcomed more than one million visitors, 12% of whom were under 25 years of age. 

 

 

 

 

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Verrochio, Renaissance master

I have always loved the sculpture of Verrochio (1435-88).

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And, since there’s currently a fabulous exhibition in Florence featuring some of the master’s work in painting, sculpture, and work in gold, I think it is high time I wrote a post on him here.

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The exhibition, “Verrocchio, Master of Leonardo” can be seen from now until mid-July at the Palazzo Strozzi.

The show was organized by Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The curators are Francesco Caglioti e Andrea De Marchi; both are leading experts in the art of the quattrocento.

This major exhibition showcases over 120 paintings, sculptures and drawings from the world’s leading museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence.

The exhibition, with a special section at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, brings together for the first time Verrocchio’s celebrated masterpieces and most important works by the best-known artists associated with his workshop in the second half of the 15th century, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci.  Leonardo was his most famous pupil, and the exhibition reconstructs Leonardo’s early career and interaction with his master, thanks to outstanding loans and unprecedented juxtapositions.

This year is a big one all over the Italian cultural scene, for it marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death. The Strozzi exhibition is, moreover, the first retrospective ever devoted to Verrocchio.

At the same time the exhibition explores the early years of Leonardo da Vinci’s career,  providing an overview of artistic output in Florence from roughly 1460 to 1490, which just happened to be the age of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

Few paintings are attributed to him with certainty, but a number of important painters were trained at his workshop. His pupils included Leonardo da Vinci, Pietro Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi. His greatest importance was as a sculptor and his last work, the Equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni in Venice, is generally accepted as a masterpiece.

Little is known about his life. His main works are dated in his last twenty years and his advancement owed much to the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his son Piero. His workshop was in Florence where he was a member of the Guild of St Luke. Several great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Lorenzo di Credi passed through his workshop as apprentices; beyond this, artists like Domenico Ghirlandaio, Francesco Botticini, and Pietro Perugino were also involved and their early works can be hard to distinguish from works by Verrocchio.

At the end of his life he opened a new workshop in Venice where he was working on the statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni, leaving the Florentine workshop in charge of Lorenzo di Credi. He died in Venice in 1488.

So, okay, as a life-long art historian, I can’t seem to break the habit of providing lots of context.  But, let’s leave that now and look at some of the beautiful work by Verrochio.

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Palazzo dei Mozzi, Firenze

The Palazzo dei Mozzi is a grand old palace beautifully situated on the piazza of the same name, in the Oltrarno section of Florence. It was built around the middle of 13th century as a part of the fortifications guarding the old Ponte di Rubaconte (today’s Ponte alle Grazie): hence its fortress-like structure.

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The palazzo is an early Renaissance building, located at the south end of the Piazza dei Mozzi that emerges from Ponte alle Grazie and leads straight to the palace where via San Niccolò becomes via de’ Bardi in the Quartiere of Santo Spirito (San Niccolò).

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The Mozzi family was among the most important and powerful families in the city in the Medieval period, and many important persons were received in the palace during their official visits in Florence; Pope Gregory X, for example, visited the palazzo in 1273.

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On the facade facing the Via de’ Bardi, we see the tower and the large coat-of-arms of the Mozzi family. Also note the tower’s crenellation, covered nowadays by a roof.

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The large garden on the rear of the palace was built in 16th century, when the Mozzi bought a wide plot of ground in order to transform it into an olive-grove.

Around the middle of 19th century, the palace was purchased by the antiquarian Stefano Bardini, who owned another palazzo across the street (see pictures below). Today that amazing garden is open to the public as a part of the Museo Bardini complex. It is one of the most spectacular gardens in all of Florence, especially in spring when the trees and wisteria are in full bloom!

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Bardini transferred his extensive art collections and laboratories to the Palazzo dei Mozzi and changed the olive-grove into a garden; he decorated the garden with statues and elements he saved from the demolition of ancient buildings in the center of Florence. In a subsequent time the garden was futher decorated with a loggia and big stairs.

After the death of Ugo Bardini, the son of Stefano, the palace remained closed for a long time, until it was bought by the Italian State; it is currently under restoration and will become a centre for exhibitions and cultural events.

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Palazzo Bardini on left, Palazzo dei Mozzi at far end.

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Below, another view of facade of Palazzo dei Mozzi, looking eastward along via San Niccolò.

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