Fondation Louis Vuitton

Rough Guide to Paris, 16th edition

FRANK GEHRY’S unorthodox buildings lend themselves to a wide range of interpretations—something the 16th edition of the Rough Guide to Paris shows an awareness of when describing the Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton.

An “astonishing ‘cloud of glass’ ” is the guidebook’s first take. But then it goes on to say that its 12 “sails” evoke “a ship buffeted by the wind (or possibly a giant insect).” Later, it suggests that the structure “looks like it might float off (or collapse) at any moment.” So, clearly, there are a number of impressions it can make on a viewer.

Of one thing, though, the guidebook is quite sure: this is “an extravagant building conceived with no expense spared.” No surprise: the driving force behind it, Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury-goods empire LVMH, is France’s richest man.

The gallery opened in 2015 to show off Arnault’s large collection of contemporary art, which includes works by Rothko, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In addition to its permanent holdings, its 11 rooms (“some vast, some intimate”) present temporary exhibitions. “The building has an unfinished feel in places and there’s a lot of empty space, something which Gehry says is deliberate, seeing it as a work in progress.”

Even those uninterested in art or architecture may find a visit rewarding: the site is in the Bois de Boulogne, the lovely forest-park on Paris’s western flank, and “exploring the interior is fun: escalators take you down to the moat level…while staircases spiral up to several rooftop terraces revealing unexpected vistas of the Eiffel Tower and La Défense.”