Paris' Newest Must-See Museum: Fondation Louis Vuitton

Famous architect Frank Gehry has created funky, imaginative buildings all over the world, like the playful Dancing House in Prague and the iconic Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. But did you know you can now see one of his newest works in Paris?

It’s the second mark he’s left on Paris, the first being the Cinémathèque Française at the edge of Parc de Bercy. And it’s quite an impressionable mark at that. If you thought that Paris was just about cream-colored Haussmannian buildings, you’re missing some of the city’s surprises.

This past winter Michael and I ventured out to the western reaches of Paris to check out the Fondation Louis Vuitton that had recently opened its doors in October 2014. It’s located in the Bois de Boulogne, just next to the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

No handbags on display here - though think of how many you could buy using the over €100 million euros it cost to bring this building to life.

The results of Gehry’s newest work in Paris? Stunning. His masterpiece inspired me to run around behind the camera and capture both the architecture and the interplay between the structure and its surroundings.

While you'd normally save your museum visits for a rainy day, to get the most out of your visit here, come on a clear day for spectacular views from the terraces. (And take advantage of the nice weather by wandering around the Jardin d'Acclimatation afterwards -- entry is included in your ticket!).

When you enter, head straight for the terraces at the top of the building and take your time walking around this masterpiece before heading down through the museum to enjoy the galleries. The huge glass panels resemble the sails of a boat, somehow making the stiff materials feel fluid and light. What I loved about the design is how it embraces its surroundings by not trying to compete with other buildings but instead incorporating them. Take the skyscrapers of La Défense for example - they’re peeking out through the openings like a framed picture on the wall.

La Défense framed and on display from the terrace of the Fondation Louis Vuitton

The exposed ribbing of the building, likened in this Vanity Fair article to the vaulting of a cathedral or the industrial steel look of the Eiffel Tower

Above: the terraces of Fondation Louis Vuitton

In the photo below, the foreground features the Jardin d'Acclimatation, the amusement park whose entrance is included with the purchase of a ticket to the Fondation Louis Vuitton. 

The Eiffel Tower, whose view could have been blocked, can instead be seen out in the distance. It’s a nod to perhaps the most iconic structure in Paris from the newcomer on the block.

I wanted you to get a feel for the elements of the building before showing you the big picture if you are unfamiliar with it. Here it is, the ship-like Fondation Louis Vuitton sailing at the edge of the Jardin d'Acclimatation.

I could have stayed up on the terraces for a long time (and I actually started and ended my visit on the top floor because I couldn’t get enough), but eventually I made my way down into the exposition spaces. The mission of the Fondation centers around contemporary art and the exhibitions are constantly changing. Below is a taste of the first part of the exhibitions I saw when I was there in February. (To be honest, it didn't really do much for me -- but my husband couldn't get enough! When it comes to art, to each his own.)

But then we continued making our way down to the lower floors, and next up was an exposition on the building itself. It was really fascinating to see all the different ideas Frank Gehry was toying with, and the numerous miniature models he put together as he dreamed up this work. Each model was so detailed that those alone must have taken hours upon hours to create, and there were so many on display!

The Frank Gehry exposition is no longer on display, but there were plenty of books to look through in the gift shop relating to the architectural design if that is of interest.

"I dream / I dream of designing a magnificent vessel for Paris that symbolizes France's profound cultural vocation." - Frank Gehry

Here's some details from the model that reflects how the building looks today.

The visit just got better as we made it down to the lower floors. The last exhibit we saw, called Contact, was our favorite. In fact, it was one of the best we have seen in a while. It combined optics and perception into an interactive work meant to be experienced more than merely observed. That installation alone made the whole visit worth it, and of course I would have been happy just roaming around the building itself.

Michael and I took some artsy selfies in the Contact exhibit.

"Contact" is also no longer running at the Fondation, but if the exhibits on display now and to follow are of this caliber, a trip to the Fondation Louis Vuitton will be well worth it.

My take-away from the visit? My initial reaction to the admission price of 14 euros was that it felt steep, but looking back on it, it was well worth it. If you budget a few hours to explore both the Fondation and the adjacent Jardin d'Acclimatation, it is easily a half day’s worth of entertainment. I definitely recommend taking the time to venture westward and experience this cultural space! 

Has anyone seen the exhibit that's on now, "Keys to a passion?" Thoughts? What do you think of this modern building in Paris?


Fondation Louis Vuitton
8, Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi
75116 Paris, France

Closed Tuesdays

Summer hours from July 7 - September 1, 2015: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 12pm-7pm / Friday 12pm-11pm / Saturday & Sunday 11am-8pm

Regular hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 11am-8pm / Friday 11am-11pm / Saturday & Sunday 10am-8pm

Admission: €14 full price, €10 for under 26 years old, €5 for under 18 years old, children under 3 years old are free (prices as of June 2015). 
***Admission prices include entrance to the Jardin d'Acclimatation (normally €3)!***
Note that tickets are valid for re-entry throughout the day (I took advantage of this by exiting the building and walking in the park until evening, and then catching the sunset from the terrace). 

Lou Messugo