War of the Art Patrons Vuitton's Revenge in Paris

After a bitter dispute over a new museum of modern art in Paris, Louis Vuitton's Bernard Arnault emerged victorious. Frank Gehry's architectural masterpiece is expected to receive its first visitors in 2010.

Frank Gehry's design for the new Louis Vuitton museum in Paris.

Frank Gehry's design for the new Louis Vuitton museum in Paris.

A transparent cloud amid a sea of green, a cluster of entangled shells, glass canvasses stretching over tree tops –- such is the latest concept by American star-architect Frank Gehry. The building will house a museum for the Luis Vuitton Foundation for Creation, and the design itself is already a work of art. It promises to become the next big tourist attraction in Paris.

The glass structure, to be held together by a filigree mesh of steel trusses, is currently being embedded into the vegetation of the Jardin d'Acclimatation on the northern border of Paris's Bois de Boulogne Park. As of 2010, this ultra-modern museum will exhibit contemporary art from the archives of the luxurious Louis Vuitton Company on roughly 6,000 square meters of new space.

For a long time, Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton S.A. (LVMH), kept his project in the dark. Today though, he openly describes it as "a wager on audacity and emotion." Above all, he says, the project is meant to make modern art more accessible to children and young adults.

But Arnault may have ulterior motives: revenge over his arch-nemesis François Pinault, who owns the retail company PPR. In 1999, PPR stepped in to prevent Arnault's LVMH from taking control of the Italian fashion label Gucci. A struggle between the two richest men in France ensued until PPR took full control of Gucci in 2004.

This time though, the laugh is on Pinault. Arnault's multi-billion euro "rival in the buying of art" (Le Monde) had his own museum project on the Seine river's Seguin island in Paris. However, after a bitter dispute with the city of Paris, he grudgingly pulled the plug on the project. Since then, the Pinault collection instead adorns the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Italy.



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