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The Louvre Pyramid Celebrates 30 Years With a Trippy Optical Illusion

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The trompe l’oeil effect can only be seen from above.

Photo by S-F / Shutterstock

The trompe l’oeil effect can only be seen from above.

The French street artist JR’s trompe l’oeil collage fascinated museumgoers before it disintegrated beneath their feet.

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When I.M. Pei unveiled his glass and metal pyramid at the Louvre, critics slammed his design. They called it an “eyesore,” an “architectural joke,” and an “anachronistic intrusion of Egyptian death symbolism in the middle of Paris.”

But last Friday, the Louvre celebrated the 30th anniversary of the now iconic monument. To mark the occasion, the French street artist JR and a team of 400 volunteers collaged the courtyard surrounding the pyramid with 2,000 sheets of paper, making the monument appear as if it extended below ground into a rock quarry.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by JR (@jr) on Mar 30, 2019 at 1:39am PDT

Visible from the museum’s roof and from two large screens in the courtyard, the delicate work of art was soon torn apart on Saturday as museumgoers walked over it. JR, who is known for his large-scale photographic collages everywhere from the U.S.-Mexico border wall to Rio de Janeiro, explained on Twitter that the installation was designed to be temporary.

“The images, like life, are ephemeral,” he wrote in a post on Sunday. “Once pasted, the art piece lives on its own. The sun dries the light glue and with every step, people tear pieces of the fragile paper. The process is all about participation of volunteers, visitors, and souvenir catchers.”  

JR collaged the Louvre pyramid once before in 2016.
This isn’t the first time JR has taken over the Louvre’s courtyard. In 2016, he made the pyramid “disappear” by pasting a black-and-white image of the Louvre’s historic building directly onto the surface of the pyramid.

The Louvre was the most-visited art museum in the world last year with 10.2 million visitors in 2018, compared to the 3.5 million it welcomed in 1989 when the pyramid opened.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Paris

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