Minister, dear Jack Lang,
Dear Jean-Luc Martinez, dear Michel Laclotte, dear Pierre Rosenberg,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Who could have imagined, when this Pyramid was still just an idea, a model, a project, that we would be here, 30 years after its inauguration, to celebrate it, to celebrate this gesture of unprecedented audacity?
How far they seem to us today, all the passionate debates!
How far it seems to us, this polemic of which France has the secret!
I’m talking about a time that the under-30s can’t experience...
I have not forgotten the outburst, the controversies, the cries of gold.
I know that many of us have not forgotten them either...
Some promised us a disaster, imagined an aggression against our heritage, which would damage the image of Paris and distort our history.
They reproached the Pyramid for ignoring the Palace; they reproached its builder for the materials he chose; they even reproached him for not being French.
They attacked, vilified, castigated, both the author and his project.
Only our country is capable of such excesses!
There is only France to sling on such a subject!
Only the French can debate art with such fervor!
If we forget the hostility that has sometimes manifested itself... if we forget the vehemence and passion that we French sometimes put to express our taste for contradiction... if we forget all that...
I think we can be proud.
Proud to be that people who are passionate about culture, to the point of tearing themselves apart for it; to the point of being ready for anything for it.
We can be proud, too, because,
My dear friends:
Of these fears, of this fear, of these excesses…
What remains today, if not unanimous admiration?
In the face of audacity, what remains of conservatism?
Faced with the need to change, faced with its obvious, what remains of the reluctance?
In this glass temple, erected in the courtyard of a stone palace, built by our Kings almost a millennium ago...
In this diamond with a thousand facets, where water and light reverberated...
In this ice fountain, where the history of our country and the skies of Paris are reflected...
Here, there is, I believe, a reflection on time.
Yves Bonnefoy had already detected it...
' It’s not a pyramid ,” he said, “ it is the hourglass that we will overturn so that begins, then already flows and soon ceases the time of this visit ».
Of course, every work is inseparable from the moment it is born. But when I see this hourglass, I think that it is the long time that gives value to creation.
In architecture, even more.
Yes: it is the duration that gives the buildings a soul, that gives it back to them or takes it away from them, that exalts or belittles them.
There is only time to prove that the glass is truly transparent, and that the sun reflected in it is truly bright.
There are creations made for their time: their glory is immediate, but it does not last.
There are others made for history, over which the centuries have no hold. Masterpieces, which shine each day a little more than the day before.
The past thirty years have shown us that the Pyramid is one of these.
It is the work of a great master, named Ieoh Ming Pei.
I want to pay tribute to him tonight, as he did to us, through this wonder.
There is in this monument all the respect of Pei for the Louvre Palace.
He chose the glass out of respect for the stone.
Out of respect for the lines, he chose a pyramid.
Out of respect for our history, which he chose to extend.
Pei found inspiration in the plans and works of André Le Nôtre, in his drawings and in his gardens.
It was in the study of his use of water and reflections that he had the idea of basins and fountains.
It was in the triangles and lozenges of his beds that he found the motifs for his glass panels.
A glass that magnifies the Palace! That invites us to look at it!
For, through him, it is first of all the Palace that shines through.
This is a lesson.
A lesson for all of us.
Sometimes greatness is born of modesty, discretion and humility.
Sometimes it is by knowing how to erase oneself that we mark history.
Stendhal wrote that the style must be like a transparent varnish: it must not alter the colors, or the facts and thoughts on which it is placed ».
To read it, one would almost think that he speaks of the Pyramid as if he had seen it in his lifetime!
Most certainly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pei had read Stendhal…
For he spent whole days in the Louvre and its libraries. To read, learn, study, immerse yourself in the history of France and the Palace.
He walked through the Cour Napoléon, the corridors, the galleries and the Tuileries garden.
To observe and contemplate, wandering through the meanders of the museum and our past.
A past to which the French are viscerally attached – this has not escaped him.
' I meet people Pei said, “ who speak of Louis XIV as if they had seen him the day before! »
His meticulous attention to our history was only strengthened.
His fidelity to the spirit of the Louvre was only tenfold.
There is a detail that reminds us of this…
In 1665 Le Bernini had been commissioned by Louis XIV to draw the east wing of the Cour Carrée, and to make a marble representing him on horseback.
It was modified by Girardon and then moved to Versailles.
Pei ordered a cast to display it next to the Pyramid.
But the location he chose for her owes nothing to chance.
He placed it precisely, exactly, meticulously in the axis that connects the Louvre to the Obelisk of Concord, the Obelisk of Concord to the Arc de Triomphe, and the Arc de Triomphe to the Great Arch.
In doing so, it extends this royal and historic axis.
It extends this line « as a trace that history would have left in time and space, this line that links Le Nôtre to Pei, and the Louvre to its own history.”
The Pyramid is about remembering our history and moving towards the future.
In this glass temple, built in the heart of a stone palace, there is a salutary reminder.
The reminder that modernity is not making a clean slate of the past.
We love the contradiction in this country, to the point of wanting to find it everywhere.
But the present, in order to exist, does not need to oppose everything that preceded it.
Breaking up is not always essential.
Epochs can dialogue together; find a harmony, a coherence that connects them.
That is the case here.
Yes: today’s architecture can be built from yesterday’s.
A museum of tomorrow can be set up in the heart of an old palace.
For our heritage is not finished, or frozen for eternity.
It is a living heritage. It regenerates and transforms itself. It knows how to renew itself.
Dear Jack Lang, I hope you will forgive me for quoting...
' In Rome, the Capitol overlooks the ancient Roman forum. In Venice, the campanile in Saint Mark’s Square is three centuries less than the nearby basilica. In Paris itself, the Eiffel Tower is part of the perspective of the Military School, built a century and a half earlier. »
Yes: our heritage is made of these additions, these juxtapositions.
It is not only what we receive, but also what we leave.
It is not only what was there before us; it is also what will remain after us.
It is not only our link to yesterday; it is also what connects us to tomorrow.
It’s not just conservation; it’s also innovation, creation.
Here, 30 years ago, women and men showed that it was possible for a new work to rub shoulders with the old.
I want to thank them here.
Thank all the pioneers, the daring, without whom the Grand Louvre would probably never have taken place.
I have a thought for President François Mitterrand. His passion for art and culture, and especially for the work of Pei, made it possible to magnify this Palace.
I want to thank you, dear Jack Lang, for leading the battle against all odds, with unwavering determination.
And who found an unexpected ally in the person of Jacques Chirac, intervened against the advice of his relatives to support the Pyramid.
I’m thinking about him tonight.
I would also like to pay tribute to the memory of Emile Biasini, administrator of the project, who did so much for the Louvre and for France, at the head of the Great Presidential Works entrusted to him by François Mitterrand.
Greet again, and with infinite respect, the visionary Ieoh Ming Pei. He couldn’t be here tonight but his son does us the honor of being here: thank you, dear Chung Pei Dog.
His work would not have had the same brilliance without the involvement of architects Michel Macary and Jean-Michel Wilmotte. They worked together at the Grand Louvre.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the presidents of this museum, who made it possible to raise it to the status of a world museum.
Michel Laclotte, who knew how to bring together the departments of the Louvre around a single direction.
Pierre Rosenberg, who carried and carefully accompanied the Grand Louvre project.
Henri Loyrette, who extended the Louvre’s canvas in France, with the Louvre-Lens; and who extended the Louvre’s canvas elsewhere, with the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Jean-Luc Martinez, who brilliantly exceeded the threshold of 10 million visitors in 2018. And we won’t stop there!
And finally, I want to salute all the teams at the Louvre who have been at the service of this project over the years: directors, administrators, curators, exhibitors, mediators, crafts, programmers, documentalists, publishers, stage managers, reception and surveillance agents, administrative teams and all agents of the Louvre.
Together, you have proven to all cynics – to all those who would have preferred the silence of our time, the inaction of our leaders, or their procrastination – that it is possible to do otherwise.
That it was possible to hatch a new Louvre that respects the old.
That it was possible to build, without destroying.
To perfect, without undoing.
To reinvent, without distorting.
Together, you have brought the Louvre into modernity.
It was not only Paris, but the face of France that was changed.
After the Grand Louvre, a dynamic was launched: renovations, extensions, museum creations, all over France.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Caen; the Museum of Fine Arts in Angers; the Calais Lace Museum; the Fabre Museum in Montpellier; the Centre-Pompidou Metz; the Soulages Museum in Rodez; the Confluences Museum in Lyon; the Nantes Art Museum; the Museum of Romanity, Nîmes; the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum; the Cluny Museum; the Besançon Museum of Fine Arts; the Dijon Museum, which will soon open; and I forget so many others who followed this momentum.
It was this Pyramid that inspired them. That guided them.
This Pyramid, which is our compass, our landmark.
It’s like a lighthouse in the dark.
It is a beacon against Obscurantism.
She made the Louvre the largest, most beautiful museum in the world.
This lighthouse offered the works a new setting, the public a new welcome, the Palace a new life.
In the light it emits, it is France’s historical vocation that is reaffirmed.
A universal vocation.
To welcome on our soil the women and men of this world, and to make them share a certain idea of Beauty.
Because the Pyramid has transformed the Louvre, to put the visitor in its center.
Through architecture, we can change the movements of women and men, their circulation.
You can change a movement, and that movement can change the world.
So, the two wings of the Palace were unified: in one entrance, one access, for a single museum – rather than seven in the past.
One “museum of museums”.
The only external sign of this change, the only submerged part of this buried architecture, is the Pyramid.
She bears the responsibility of saying: «This is the Louvre».
It is an open door in this Palace which was once a fortress.
A door open to visitors from around the world…
Here in France, this door has opened up to Lens.
It has also been opened up to partnerships with other museums, to loans of works, to off-the-wall activities.
This door opened to the world, to Abu Dhabi.
This ' Louvre of the desert and light », as the President of the Republic calls it, is the emblem of a culture open to the world, open to the Beautiful here and elsewhere.
A universal museum, by its collections, its architecture, its location, at the intersection of roads and civilizations.
The universal vocation of France is also that of welcoming on our soil the genius of the whole world; of making cultures interact together.
Because culture in France knows no borders.
Our country is a land of welcome and creation. Of welcoming creators.
From Leonardo Da Vinci to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, our culture is made up of artists from elsewhere, who have chosen France, who have loved France to the point of coming here to enrich it and create it.
In this Pyramid, which is a beacon, artists have often found light.
For a long time, they will sail there.
Yesterday, it was the screenings of Jenny Holzer, the throne of Kohei Nawa, the installations of Claude Lévêque and those of Wim Delvoye.
Today, it is JR who gives us this honor.
Tomorrow, on the occasion of this 30th anniversary, it will be the immense Pierre Soulages, the choreographer Kader Attou, the conductor of the Orchestre de Paris Daniel Harding, the virtuoso violinist Janine Jansen, the sculptures of Elias Crespin and you, dear Jean-Michel Othoniel.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I quoted Stendhal to praise the perfect transparency of this jewel, which reflects the sky and is reflected in its pools.
Another of our great writers best sums up what the Pyramid reminds me of. It’s Paul Valéry. In "Eupalinos ou l'Architecte", which is perhaps the most beautiful love letter to architecture ever written, he says:
' Architecture […] is in the middle of this world, like the monuments of another world; or like the examples, scattered here and there, of a structure and a duration that are not those of beings, but those of forms and laws. It seems destined to remind us directly of the order and stability of the universe. »
This is what this marvel of glass and light inspires us.
She’s so beautiful, you’d think she came from another world.
It is from us.
It is the soul of brilliant artists; the determination of tireless decision-makers; the will and ambition of women and men who firmly believe that tomorrow can be better than yesterday.
This Louvre is our world.
And every day, for thirty years, it has been an enchantment.
Long live the Louvre, long live culture, and long live France.