In late March, a massive photo collage was unveiled on the grounds of the Louvre in Paris, in the courtyard that’s home to the tip of the museum’s well-known glass pyramid, which rises into the public space from underground corridors.
The Louvre commissioned the collage to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Louvre Pyramid, which was designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. The collage’s creator, French street artist JR, designed an illusion that made it look as though people might walk right off of craggy cliffs dropping to the base of the pyramid.
The illusion is twofold. The ground around the pyramid is paved:
And the pyramid has no base underground. Instead, it comes to another point — it’s more of a diamond than a pyramid:
The Louvre posted a photo of the completed work on their Instagram account — before the crowds were allowed to stroll onto it:
JR used 2,000 strips of paper to create the impressive illusion, which is called “The Secret of the Great Pyramid,” and 400 volunteers helped to paste it together on the Louvre grounds. “Once pasted, the art piece lives on its own,” the artist’s site says of the project. “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 posted a stunning sunset shot of the pyramid in the faux canyon he created:
What remains now is the memories of people from around the world who came to paste the piece … or to walk on it and tear it to make it disappear … merci à vous pic.twitter.com/9ZKl4tfaH5
— JR (@JRart) April 3, 2019
It took the volunteers four days to put the collage together, but once the exhibit opened to museum visitors, the foot traffic wore away at the paper photos and, within hours, the illusion was gone.
One visitor’s photo shows the destruction up close (and how the artist used black and white dots to create the visual illusion):
Are you a glass-is-half-full or half-empty person? Because one take on what happened to this installation is that a bunch of terrible tourists deliberately killed this incredible work of art. But the artist himself knew the paper-based project would be destroyed and said via Twitter that it was “about impermanence”:
This project is also about presence and absence, about reality and memories, about impermanence. pic.twitter.com/ic1vlqXjvG
— JR (@JRart) March 31, 2019
If you’re going to Paris soon, you won’t be able to experience the drama of walking across the work and watching it tear under your feet. But fortunately, JR’s impermanent work does live on thanks to social media posts from visitors, the Louvre and the artist himself.