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This Summer, the Louvre’s Pyramid Will “Disappear”

A French street artist promises a tantalizing trick of the eye

Say goodbye to the Louvre's iconic pyramid. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

I.M. Pei’s grand pyramid brought controversy, modernity and a new entrance to the Louvre. But is it time for the pyramid to disappear? Kind of: As Henri Neuendorf reports for artnet News, a French artist will eliminate the pyramid through a mind-bending optical illusion this summer.

The artist doing this feat goes by the name JR, and he boasts on his website that he “owns the biggest art gallery in the world.” In a way, he’s right: Instead of exhibiting inside the walls of museum, he makes streets and buildings his canvas. One of his best-known works of art was his Face 2 Face project, an illegal photo exhibit that plastered portraits of Israelis and Palestinians on facing walls in cities all over both countries.

Now, writes Neuendorf, JR will take things a step further when he takes on the Cour Napoleon, the courtyard between the two buildings of the Louvre. It’s dominated by an iconic glass pyramid that’s been there since 1989. The redesign was initially intended to make something of the plaza between the buildings, add gallery and conservation space and serve as the museum’s new entrance—but JR wants to make it go away entirely.

He’ll do it with the help of anamorphosis, which makes images viewed from just the right angle suddenly turn into different images entirely. The 3D technique is often employed by chalk artists who use it to create the illusion of depth and heft. Stretch the image in just the right way, and you can guarantee that from the perfect angle, it will look like it’s come to life.

Nobody’s exactly sure what JR’s anamorphic cover-up of the pyramid will look like: The Louvre simply stated that he’ll transform the pyramid with a “surprising” image, and the artist himself teased the public with an Instagram post featuring the famous pyramid ripped from a photograph. Better give the pyramid one last look before it disappears on May 25—it won’t “reappear” until June 27.

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