Menu Skip to content

Gagosian Quarterly

November 17, 2014

frank gehry:fondation louis vuitton

This autumn, it appeared as if a ship had sailed into the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Well, it was not a ship so much as an architectural tour de force: a vast building made with more than thirty-two hundred panels of glass and 15,000 tons of steel. This striking building is the long-awaited premiere of Bernard Arnault’s Fondation Louis Vuitton and the latest triumph for its architect, Frank Gehry. The celebrated architect discusses the project with Gagosian’s Derek Blasberg.

Photo Credit © Todd Eberle for Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014

Photo Credit © Todd Eberle for Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014

Derek Blasberg

Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the Executive Editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is Vanity Fair’s “Our Man on the Street” and the host of the television show “CNN Style.” He has been with Gagosian since 2014.

See all articles

Derek Blasberg First, let’s talk about Paris. Do you have any vivid or formative memories about Paris or the Bois de Boulogne?

Frank Gehry I’ve loved Paris since I lived there in 1960. The first time that I visited the garden with Bernard Arnault, I could feel the history of the place; it made me remember Proust, who writes about it in his books. I actually started to cry.

DB It seems as though this building must have been an emotional project, and ultimately it is a triumph. There are so many iconic structures already in Paris. Was that a daunting observation, or was it exciting to anticipate that this structure might join that pantheon?

FG I don’t think about it that way. Of course I have great respect and admiration for the buildings of Paris, and I know them well from my time living and working there—in fact, I studied them. But this project is in a setting that is not immediately adjacent to those buildings. It had to respect the heritage of the older buildings, but it also had to be something different.

DBWhen did you start working on its design? What informed your decisions?

FGWhen I first met Bernard Arnault in 2001, he told me about his plan to build a place in Paris that would encourage creativity and make contemporary art accessible to everybody. He brought me to the Jardin d’Acclimatation. We discussed creating an ephemeral building in the tradition of the nineteenth-century garden pavilions. The question was how to accommodate the functions of the building and still have a building that would seem open and transparent. That’s why the building is made of two layers—the glass sails on the outer layer and the “icebergs,” which house the galleries.

Frank Gehry: Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

Photo Credit © Todd Eberle for Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014

DBI know you are a fan of water—and fish, which you’ve used as inspiration for some of your artworks and earlier buildings—so does it put a smile on your face that you’ve put a big ship in the middle of Paris?

FGI wanted to create a regatta through the park—not just one ship, but many! The big panels of curved glass that form the facade, what we call “the sails,” help bring the park into the building, and the building into the park. From the outside, you see the sky, the trees, and the water reflected in the sails. When you’re inside, you see out to the surroundings and feel connected to the garden.

Frank Gehry: Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris

Photo Credit © Todd Eberle for Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014

DBI was told that you designed this building from the inside out. Unlike other spaces, when you design galleries, you need to hang works on walls, not glass. What other factors dictated the way this project came together?

FG When you design a museum, you ordinarily start with a philosophy of how the galleries ought to work, and then you decide where to put them in relation to each other and the building as a whole. This was a different problem. This is a building in the Bois de Boulogne. If it didn’t have the glass, we would have been required to create a lower and more blocklike structure. But we wanted the glass, to make the Fondation reminiscent of a garden building. That decision enabled us to add some height to the building, which gave us more space. The height also allowed us to create exterior terraces that connect the Jardin to the building. Visitors can walk up the exterior of the building to the topmost terrace, which has extraordinary views of Paris.

DBThe building is so impressive. How has it been to work with Fondation Louis Vuitton on the project?

FGThis was really a collaboration with Bernard Arnault. He took part in every round of study and revision. His input was critical to the process. This would have been a very different building if it had been done for anyone other than Bernard. He was fantastic to work with as was his team.

Related Articles

Art and Food

Art and Food

Mary Ann Caws and Charles Stuckey discuss the presence of food and the dining table in the history of modern art.

Fire and Water

Fire and Water

Y.Z. Kami and Peter Marino discuss the power of bronze, the current state of architecture, and the infinite.

Peter Lindbergh on Alberto Giacometti

Peter Lindbergh on Alberto Giacometti

Peter Lindbergh discusses photography and the history of his practice with Catherine Grenier, Director of Fondation Giacometti. An accompanying video captures Lindbergh describing the powerful experience he had while photographing sculptures by Alberto Giacometti.

Rachel Feinstein Brings Rome to Paris

Rachel Feinstein Brings Rome to Paris

Rachel Feinstein speaks to Gagosian’s Angela Brown about “bringing Rome to Paris,” for her exhibition at Le Mur.

Craig Robins

In Conversation
Craig Robins

Craig Robins, co-founder of Design Miami and developer of the Miami Design District, talks to Derek Blasberg .

Nicolas Berggruen

The Bigger Picture
Nicolas Berggruen

The investor and philanthropist discusses the future of the Berggruen Institute with Derek Blasberg.

Matt Tyrnauer

In Conversation
Matt Tyrnauer

Jean Nouvel, the famed French architect whose work has redrawn city skylines around the world, is the topic of filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer’s newest documentary, Jean Nouvel: Reflections. Derek Blasberg interviews the director about what drew him into Nouvel’s orbit and what it was like to follow him as he approaches his “Bilbao Moment.”

Picasso and Dalí

Picasso and Dalí

Known influencers, but did they influence each other?

The Ultimate Guide to Travel

The Ultimate Guide to Travel

A conversation between John Armleder and Nicolas Trembley.

Split-Rocker: A Landscaping Perspective

Split-Rocker: A Landscaping Perspective

Jeff Koons’s flowering sculpture Split-Rocker, at once imposing and adorable, has cast a spell on New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Derek Blasberg interviews Matt Donham, Koons’s landscape designer on the project, to find out more.

Katharina Grosse

Katharina Grosse

An interview between Katharina Grosse and Louise Neri. The two discuss Grosse’s process and examine the countless perceptual possibilities of her medium.

Jenny Saville and Dr. Simon Groom

In Conversation
Jenny Saville and Dr. Simon Groom

Jenny Saville discusses the beginnings and evolutions of her painting practice with Dr. Simon Groom, Director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. She speaks candidly on her endless passion for painting the figure, the beauty of struggle, motherhood, and the artists that have inspired her.