In Paris, a passion for all things Frank Gehry

The Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by Frank Gehry, opens later this month in Paris.
(Christopher Hawthorne / Los Angeles Times)

Frank Gehry has a significant history in Paris -- and something of a mixed record.

He lived here for a year in the early 1960s, working for the French architect Andre Remondet as well as the planner Robert Auzelle. As an established and indeed world-famous architect he returned to Paris to design the American Center, which opened in 1994.




Oct. 7, 1:02 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misspelled Hennessy as Hennessey.


The stone-clad building is not among his best work and closed after just two years. It was taken over by the Cinematheque Francaise in 2005.

None of that likely prepared Parisians or Gehry for the new intensity of his relationship with the city, which this month is welcoming both the architect’s museum for the Louis Vuitton Foundation and a major retrospective on his work at the Pompidou Center.

The exhibition, which includes models, photographs and drawings from every stage of Gehry’s long career, as well as video and film clips, will travel to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next year, opening in September, although it is likely to be modified from its Parisian form.

Organized by Pompidou curators Frédéric Migayrou and Aurélien Lemonier for its French run, it will be overseen at LACMA by Stephanie Barron. Barron was in Paris this week to see the exhibition.

It divides Gehry’s work into six chronological phases and includes sections exploring his buildings’ connections to their urban context and his firm’s use of digital technology.

The installation at the Pompidou is straightforward, even restrained, with the models placed on simple white pedestals and framed drawings and video screens lining the walls.

The highly anticipated building for the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which cost a reported $143 million, cannot be described with those same adjectives. Located near the northern edge of Paris’ largest park, the Bois de Boulogne, it will hold the art collection of Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and the wealthiest person in France.

Wrapped in huge curving glass panels and suspended on one end over a cascading fountain, it holds galleries on several levels as well as an auditorium with white walls lined in scored Corian.

It will open officially to the public Oct. 27; I visited on Wednesday.

My reviews of the Pompidou exhibition and the Louis Vuitton Foundation building will appear in the coming days.

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