One of the reasons we decided to visit Paris this December was because the Fondation Louis Vuitton is hosting an exhibition of a 130 works from the Sergei Shchukin collection that is part of the Hermitage Museum's permanent collection. We had seen these works while in St. Petersburg, but given the quality of the collection, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to revisit them. Who knows, if Donald Trump does establish cordial relations with Vladimir Putin, maybe Russia will allow the collection to travel to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Not surprisingly, the Kremlin is a little bit skittish about allowing the works to travel outside Russia.
The exhibit runs through February 20, 2017. With works by Picasso, Matisse, Pissarro, Gauguin, Monet, Redon, Van Gogh, and several dozen other artists on display, any art lover would be a fool to pass up the opportunity if he or she is in Paris. I particularly liked the Monet (Parliament House) and the Degas (Dancer Posing for a Photographer). Fortunately, there was only one Renoir, which is 399 Renoirs fewer than the number held by Philadelphia's Barnes Foundation--the redundant Renoirs.
What took me by surprise was the building. It opened in 2014 at a cost of $146 million, which may explain why Louis Vuitton handbags are so expensive. It was designed by internationally reknowed architect, Frank Gehry--not one of my favorites. Too much metal and too many extraneous parts for my taste--cake swirls is how I describe much of his work. Ah, but the Fondation's building is different. It is comprised of 3,600 colored glass panels, configured as 12 sails and 19,000 slabs of white concrete. In front of the building is a water feature, comprised of a reflecting pool that flows into cascading steps that lead to a performance space. The structure is supported by large wood and metal beams.
The museum is located in the Bois de Boulogne, which was once a royal hunting preserve. In 1852, Emperor Louis Napoleon set the land aside as a park, which is located half way between La Defense--Paris' modern business center--and the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. The park is two and half times the size of New York Central park, comprised of 2,090 acres of land. Take the No. 1 Metro to the Les Sablons station, and then head west through a high-end residential neighborhood, cross the train tracks that carry a miniature train through the park, and then follow the bend in the path. You can't miss the building. Even when the Fondation is not sponsoring a major exhibit, many visitors to Paris will want to see what is now a Paris landmark.
Gehry certainly had a sense of humor when he designed the structure. Some of the views are spectacular, which caused us to look for the view of the Eiffel Tower when we were on the multilevel outdoor terraces. In doors, there may be a great view of that iconic landmark, but outside, you will find a rather boring view through a sliver formed at the intersection of two sails. Not a photograph, particularly with a large pine tree poking its top up the Tower's skirt.
The building includes 11 galleries, a performance hall that is a knockout, a restaurant, and a gift shop through which there is no exit to the outside. We had the good fortune of seeing a master class of 12 Russian musicians, ages 8 to 15, preparing for a concert the next evening. They were phenomenal, particularly the 12-year old conductor who wore a stylish hoodie and Nikes.
By the way, that's not blue sky in the accompanying photograph. It is heavy pollution, which caused the government to declare a holiday on public transportation fares. Poor Evelyn. When she snuck out one afternoon, she bought a 40 Euro five-day Metro pass. Until today, I had been riding the Metro free.