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“I dream of designing, in Paris, a magnificent vessel symbolising the cultural calling of France.” – Frank Gehry
The words of the architect behind the masterful Fondation Louis Vuitton art museum and cultural centre (pictured below) in Paris (and the Bilbao Guggenheim) elegantly sum up not just the ambition underpinning this iconic project but also the irresistible depth of culture that runs like a bloodline through this city.
I began this Blog in Paris, the forever glorious but currently troubled French capital, still bleeding from the November 2015 terrorist attacks and the Charlie Hebdo attacks from January the same year. It’s a Paris where tourist locations and transport facilities are under constant guard and protected by barricades (see my photo of the Gare du Nord below). The day after I returned home to London, soldiers shot an Egyptian man, later named as Abdullah Reda al-Hamahmy, who attacked them with a machete near the Louvre museum.
France, which is preparing for a Presidential election in April and May, remains under a state of emergency, the Paris and Nice attacks seared into a fearful public’s consciousness. And yet with every atrocity somehow the lustre of this nation and its giant, seething, multi-national democracy shines brighter. Hatred and even the slaughter it sometimes brings cannot ever quell beauty and goodness and human spirit.
In such an age, where prejudice is such an easy fall-back – as once again espoused this week by President Donald Trump in his latest ‘alternative facts’ tirade against the media’s supposed non-reporting of terrorist attacks – we need all the reminders of culture, humanity, inclusiveness and diversity that we can get.
Alas during my visit to LVMH headquarters last week to meet Chairman & CEO Bernard Arnault and Group Managing Director Antonio Belloni, time did not allow me to visit the actual Fondation Louis Vuitton (adjacent to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne of the 16th arrondissement of Paris), just to view the model of it in the reception area. But it was a nice taster at least. And as I walked out from my meetings into an unusually quiet Avenue Montaigne, la grande dame of Parisian streets, with barely a shopper in sight (perhaps due to security fears), I vowed to return to see the real thing and take in all the things it says about our still wonderful world.
“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.” – Bernard Arnault