When the Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei’s a 22-meter-high pyramid of glass in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum was first erected, the French were shocked by its revolutionary design. The architecture critic in the daily Le Monde called it “like an annex of Disneyland or bringing Luna Park back from the dead.” Others, as The New York Times remarked at the time, called it “a ‘Pharaoh Francois’ Pyramid,’ an architectural joke, an eyesore, an anachronistic intrusion of Egyptian death symbolism in the middle of Paris, and a megalomaniacal folly imposed by Mr. Mitterrand, known disdainfully to his enemies in this matter as the ‘elected monarch.’”
In addition, the project seemed to many like a folly, a monument to the president’s ego and an extreme demonstration of a kind of cultural tyranny: 70 triangles and 603 diamond-shaped glass pieces individually installed on a structure of 190,000 pounds of steel and 210,000 pounds of aluminum were necessary for its construction, with I. M. Pei spending a great deal of time and energy to find the most transparent, flattest glass possible, leaving views of the original galleries would unobstructed.
“When I first showed the idea to the public, I would say 90 percent were against it,” I. M. Pei recalled in a PBS documentary. “The first year and a half was really hell. I couldn’t walk the streets of Paris without people looking at me as if to say: ‘There you go again. What are you doing here? What are you doing to our great Louvre?’
But shortly after the pyramid’s inauguration in March 1989, this daring design was soon embraced by both locals and tourists. it has now become part of the collective unconscious, and for some – including the Louvre’s current director, Jean-Luc Martinez, an essential part of to the museum’s growth and success. “The pyramid has brought the Louvre Museum into modernity. It is the sign of a revolution that has put the visitor at the center of the museum,” he has said.
To celebrate the pyramid’s 30th birthday, the museum has organized a number of events starting in the spring with a collaborative work by the artist JR and ends in the fall with the exhibitions “Leonardo da Vinci” and “A Tribute to Pierre Soulages.”
The celebration also features an open-air photo exhibition with Paris Match magazine, a free symphonic concert under the Pyramid on June 21, and a dance performance by the choreographer Kader Attouentitled “Un break à Mozart,” and a new trompe l’oeil installation by French artist JR, creating the illusion of a larger pyramid emerging from rocks, as if discovered by an archaeological excavation.And French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel is creating from May 25 to February 24, 2020n “The Rose au Louvre,” an ensemble of six paintings on gold leaf in the Cour Puget amongst the ancient statuary. The image is inspired by a detail in a painting by Rubens in the museum collection, Le Mariage de Marie de Médicis et d’Henri IV. Othoniel considers the rose – symbol of power and passion – emblematic of the Louvre, and for the occasion has also produced a new book, L’Herbier Merveilleux, on the secret language of flowers and their symbolism, as seen through images in the Louvre collection.