In 1990, the luxury brand group, LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moét Hennessy), led by chairman and CEO, Bernard Arnault, initiated a programme to support arts and culture. LVMH’s diverse patronage for the arts spans many areas worldwide, including supporting the work of contemporary artists, acquiring works for major museums, and restoration of historic monuments.
In 2001, Bernard Arnault met the architect Frank Gehry to discuss the design of a museum in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, which would house the LVMH’s burgeoning art collection and provide a platform for diverse cultural programmes. From an initial sketch to the finished building with 12 glass sails, which reflect his long time passion for sailing, Gehry sought to ‘design, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolizing the cultural calling of France’. After seven years of wrangling to obtain the necessary planning permission, construction began in 2008. Bernard Arnault said, ‘we wanted to present Paris with an extraordinary space for art and culture, and demonstrate daring and emotion by entrusting Frank Gehry with the construction of an iconic building for the 21st century’. After further objections to the construction of the building which halted its progress (eventually overturned) in 2012, the building reached a milestone with the installation of the glass sails. The building, completed in 2014, hosted the Louis Vuitton fashion show before opening to the public in October.
Ithas11 separate galleries on four levels, plus a sizeable auditorium. ‘For the men and women of the LVMH group’, said Bernard Arnault,‘this new cultural institution will be a source of pride and a symbol of who they are and the work they do’.The museum houses a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art belonging to the Foundation, as well as Bernard Arnault’s personal collection. A brilliantly coloured work by Ellsworth Kelly hangs from the proscenium arch; while upstairs, a huge mural by Gilbert and George and a recent work by Dutch photographer, Rineke Dijkstra, are displayed. Other site-specific installations commissioned by the Foundation include works by artists Olafur Eliason, Janet Cardiff, George Bures Miller, Sarah Morris, Taryn Simon, Cerith Wyn Evans, and Adrian Villar Rojas.
The museum also holds regular temporary exhibitions which include multidisciplinary installations, commissioned works from artists, and loans from other private institutions. In 2062, the building will revert to public ownership, becoming the property of the city of Paris.
‘A new space that opens up a dialogue with a wider public and provides artists and intellectuals with a platform for debate and reflection.’ Bernard Arnault