That Time JR Made the Pyramid at the Louvre Disappear


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French street artist, JR, was invited by the Louvre museum to wrap their world-famous glass pyramid with one of his monumental anamorphic images.

The Louvre has an amazing history —  originally built as a fortress in 1190, it was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace; in 1793, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette moved out and relocated their entire royal court to Versailles. And now, the Louvre is an art museum, exhibiting the royal collection and artifacts.

It’s equally famous pyramid was designed in 1985 by American architect, I.M.Pei.  The pyramid is a subterranean entrance into the Louvre, restructuring the old design, merging all of the museum’s wings with a common access point.  There’s nothing quite like witnessing the contrast of this contemporary wonder against the museum’s  baroque stateliness as you descend into what will seem like a endless abyss of art (it covers a whopping 652,300 square feet).

There’s was backlash against it’s construction, as art lovers around the world fought against what they were sure would destroy the very heart of Paris. Now this otherworldly 71-foot-high structure of glass and metal sitting in front of the main entrance is one of the most photographed landmarks in Paris.  Recent studies show that the Louvre draws nearly twice the number of visitors than it did before the Pyramid’s installation. That steamrolling commentary of fear that Pei’s design would violate the museum’s historical integrity found new air as the conversation retained relevancy with the course of JR’s Louvre project.

JR talked about the ongoing feud between traditional and modern tastes in art in an interview with curator and journalist, Hugo Vitrani.
“Making the Pyramid disappear is a way for me to distance myself from my subject…My work is about transmitting history to better understand the present, and find echoes with our own times. What happened in the past is part of a broader context that can still have relevance for today. By erasing the Louvre Pyramid, I am highlighting the way Pei made the Louvre relevant for his time, while bringing the Louvre back to its original state. The Pyramid is one of the most photographed French monuments. I am re-directing its energy, because people are going to have to move around it. They are going to look for the best angle to get the full impact of the anamorphic image, and really make the Pyramid disappear.”
It’s been more than 25 years since the pyramid was introduced to the world.  Some say, Pei achieved a kind of architectural sleight-of-hand with so much more there than meets the eye.  I’d say JR has joined those ranks.

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