French Department Store Giant Galeries Lafayette to Open Art Foundation

A scale model of the Galeries
A scale model of the Galeries Lafayette Foundation.
Rex

Galeries Lafayette has set an opening date for its eagerly awaited art foundation in Paris.

Lafayette Anticipations will open its doors on March 10, almost four years after the project, conceived by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ OMA agency, was unveiled. Initially scheduled for late 2016, the opening was subsequently pushed back to fall 2017.

It will join a series of high-profile private art institutions in Paris, including the Foundation Louis Vuitton, the brainchild of luxury magnate Bernard Arnault, which opened in 2014, and the Pinault Foundation, sponsored by his rival François Pinault, which is scheduled to open next year.

The Lafayette Anticipations space will kick off its program with Lutz Bacher’s first exhibition in France, set to run until April 30. The artist, who is closely associated with the California art scene in the ’70s, will unveil an installation designed to highlight the vertical aspects of the building.

“By taking over the entire building, the artist wishes to explore the structure’s symbolic elevation, focusing in particular on the central void constructed by its architect. As such, the artist references numerous Parisian structures, of which the department stores are an undeniable staple,” it said.

The foundation will occupy a five-story industrial building on Rue du Plâtre, a few streets behind the retail group’s BHV department store opposite Paris City Hall. Built in 1891, it was used as a warehouse for BHV and most recently served as a school.

Because of strict conservation laws governing the historic center of Paris, Koolhaas left the shell of the building intact but transformed its inner courtyard into a steel and glass exhibition tower with four mobile platforms that can be raised or lowered to create performance and exhibition spaces.

The structure features more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space, production workshops, an area dedicated to young audiences, a restaurant and a concept store. The ground floor, which will be open to the public for free, will become a passage linking Rue du Plâtre and Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie.

Guillaume Houzé, director of image and patronage of Groupe Galeries Lafayette and president of Lafayette Anticipations, has said it will also give artists, designers and performers the funding to produce their work.

“We see it as a new institution built on the basis of numerous exchanges, which aims to function in a collaborative and extremely convivial way — a building, as you can see, on a human and modest scale,” he said at the launch of the project.

“The real nerve center of the project will be invisible to the public and totally dedicated to and centered on the needs of the artists,” he added.

The foundation had a budget of 20.7 million euros over five years and expects to attract some 500,000 visitors a year, including those passing through.

Houzé is a descendant of the store’s founder and, together with his grandmother Ginette Moulin has established a large private collection from which items are regularly displayed at the Galerie des Galeries, an exhibition space inside the Galeries Lafayette flagship on Boulevard Haussmann.