PARIS – The extravagant new Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne is finally opening its doors. On 27 October, after more than ten years and a reported €105 million, LVMH chief Bernard Arnault inaugurates the 126,000-square-foot home to the luxury company’s extensive collection of 20th- and 21st-century art. Arnault has close relationships with artists and an art collection of his own, but no plans to exhibit his private holdings in the new building have been announced.
The opening will, however, be the long-awaited culmination of a deeply personal project that was born in 2001. After seeing the architect's game-changing Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Arnault decided he wanted a Gehry museum in Paris.
FRANK GEHRY WITH A MODEL OF THE FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON. PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICKE SEBASTIEN/PARIS MATCH VIA GETTY IMAGES.
The result is signature Gehry: white “icebergs” house the main galleries while glass “sails” arch protectively and aesthetically over the building, providing magical, ever-changing reflections of sky and trees. Terraces offer panoramas of Paris and the surrounding gardens. Jean-Paul Claverie, head of LVMH philanthropy and Arnault’s art adviser, has compared the building’s immediate iconic status to the Eiffel Tower.
ACTRESS BÉRÉNICE BEJO, LVMH CEO BERNARD ARNAULT, HÉLÈNE ARNAULT AND FRENCH ARTIST DANIEL BUREN AT THE LOUIS VUITTON SPRING-SUMMER 2013 PRESENTATION IN PARIS. © THIBAULT CAMUS/AP/CORBIS.
The Fondation’s first exhibition will tell the story of the creation of this architectural tour-de-force. At the same time, the Centre Pompidou is honouring Gehry with a major retrospective that runs from 8 October to 5 January 2015. The Gehry imprimatur will also grace the leather goods for which Vuitton is famous. As part of a collaborative project in celebration of its 160th anniversary, the company invited Gehry to create a handbag for its Iconoclasts collection. The design, an interpretation of the house’s classic LV monogramme, will be available in mid-October. Gehry’s accessories are sure to be as innovative – and as much in demand – as his buildings.
Jean Bond Rafferty is a Paris-based contributing editor of Town & Country and also writes for the International New York Times.