JR – Artist, Illusionist or Both?

Where did it go?!

The iconic Louvre glass pyramid designed by I.M Pei, has taken centre stage in the museum’s courtyard since 1989. Whether or not you’ve had the chance to visit the structure it is very difficult for anyone to imagine the Louvre without it. So much so, that when the name of the museum is mentioned the first image that comes to many is the pyramid, not the museum itself. It’s as though the 16th Century architecture of the museum has become the backdrop to the iconic pyramid, as opposed to the pyramid being enveloped in the iconic Renaissance structure.

French artist JR has recently given the structure a makeover making it all but disappear! And everyone’s talking about it.

JR , commissioned by the musée du Louvre, has used his signature medium of large scale black and white imaging to completely cover one side of the pyramid. The project took 2 days to set up and has been inspired by non-other than the selfie.

In an interview with DW English JR says that “Selfies have become part of our lives. If people see just themselves in the photo they may wonder: What’s the point?”

Many a tourist flock over to Paris to see the city and its attractions taking selfies (as has become the norm) as proof of being at that location and ticking it off their bucket list. By hiding the pyramid in plain sight, JR is questioning the validity of such photos. If an iconic landmark disappears, will people be just as inclined to take the photo?

It seems like it all depends on the viewer. Some passers-by are taking great interest; while others, very surprisingly, don’t even notice! Apparently, some tourists are thrilled to have the chance to be a part of a temporary installation seeing it as an added bonus to their trip while others are quite underwhelmed.

Apparently, there are no guidelines as to where the exact point of the optical illusion lies, no marking of the “sweet spot” no “take photo here” sign. Some may take the time to find it while others will try but fail and others still won’t try at all. Those who will take the time to find the perfect spot are in search of an angle at which the pyramid does indeed “disappear” as opposed to finding the best angle to photograph the pyramid in all its glory. The aim now is for it to merge into the background.

Personally, I would have loved to have a chance to see this in person… but alas.


Back to the piece:

As great a feat as this is it isn’t an illusion for illusion’s sake (or art for art’s sake for that matter). Let me put it this way: Generally speaking, one could say that an artist would place a finished piece in a space to highlight its aesthetics and message. Here, we have the very contrary. JR has placed a large-scale photograph designed to deliberately take away another piece creating a very different dialogue. He has been able to turn back time and give the original architecture of the Louvre a chance to reclaim centre stage “sans interruptions”. He has also, very successfully, been able to bring much attention to the artistry of the original structure allowing it to become a piece of art in its own right again.

JR’s illusion/installation will be on display till June 27th, 2016
Will you be able to take the perfect snapshot of the illusion?

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