Nick Cabelli for

Daniel Buren, L’Observatoire de la Lumière, Fondation Louis Vuitton. France. 2016. 25 min. Dir. Gilles Coudert

In this lush and tasteful half-hour investigation, ten-year ARTE veteran director Gilles Coudert aims his expert eye at French conceptual artist Daniel Buren’s year-long installation of coloured gels on the skin of the Frank Gehry-designed Fontation Louis Vuitton [FLV] in Paris. From May 2016 until April 2017 in a work entitled [in English] Observatory of Light, the twelve swooping and bending glass walls which form the “sails” of the FLV have been covered in a gridwork of colour and stripes, casting ever-changing colour combos on the terraces inside the shell of glass walls.

With standard ARTE production brilliance we are treated to sweeping helicopter shots, frantic Koyaanisqatsi­-timelapses of coloured shadows moving across the heretofore white walls within the building.

And yet, in only 25 minutes and with no didactics, the selection of statements from the people involved seem to lay out the case against Buren’s work. The sweeping light and lines of the building are a matter of Gehry’s design, the colours Buren has had applied are only that: colours. The movement of the colour through the building is only possible due to Buren’s art riding on Gehry’s walls. Robert Rauschenbeg erased a De Kooning drawing and called it his own work in 1953 but at least gave it an honest title: Erased De Kooning Drawing. I suggest a far more truthful title for Buren’s work would have been Coloured-in Gehry Building, or if you prefer, L’Observatoire de Gehry en couleur.

Colour may be more colourful and pleasant than not-colour. Interviews with visitors to the building agree. However, most surprising and revealing are the brief moments Coudert decided to include: FLV decided to allow the artist to choose the colours, FLV says the colourful experience works better with their brand than the monochromatic gradients of diffused light and shadow, and most insidiously, FLV boasts how the building is for kids to enjoy themselves anyhow and kids like colourful things, they’re not as critical as adult art-lovers.

Reading between the lines, between glamorous helicopter camera swoops, Coudert allows  the evidence to position the Buren work as a kid-pleasing, easy and light production of art-inspired participatory advertorial, reinforcing FLV’s brand and agenda. In a documentary that is very respectful to the work and which gives it a lavish visual treatment, it also presents a fascinating glimpse into the world of global luxury art, and is in both regards a wonderful film.


***   Daniel Buren, L’Observatoire de la Lumière, Fondation Louis Vuitton is screening as part of the FIFA Grand Panorama program, presented in a double-bill with Samurai Architect: Tadeo Ando which is in competition, as a double feature on Friday 31 March 2o17 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture at 15h45 [festival screening no. 73]. Tickets and information are available online at

<p><a href=”″>Daniel Buren L’Observatoire de la lumi&egrave;re Fondation Louis Vuitton (teaser 1 minute)</a> from <a href=”″>APRES VISION</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>