One part glamorous department store, one part tourist attraction, les Galeries Lafayette are celebrating their 100th birthday. It’s the second most visited building in Paris, right behind the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it often seems crowded when I’m there, usually during les soldes, but I was stunned to learn that about 200,000 visitors per day throng the aisles for a chance to buy designer goods as well as plenty of souvenirs to take home.
The owner, Théophile Bader, conceived of a bazar de luxe (bazar duh lukes), or luxury bazaar. The main store on boulevard Houssmann was built by architect Ferdinand Chanut and he engaged a whole team of experts in the art of Art Nouveau to gild the lily. The iconic stained glass dome was created by master glassmaker Jacques Gruber and the sinuous balconies are the workmanship of Louis Majorelle.
No party is complete without candles, but for this birthday, the store called on lighting artist Yann Kersalé to create special effects. A light show plays across the cupola to represent a year in the life of the store. He also created an LED light show that he calls “Chrysalide” that reflects on the exterior façade all that is going on inside.
Then there’s the celebration of the store’s history created by AMO/OMA: 1912 – 2012 Chroniques d’un parcours créatif. They dug into the archives to create a display that filters the store’s history through the lens of what was going on in France in the realms of fashion, art, business, and social and economic changes. Les Galeries Lafayette is more than just a store, after all, it’s a cultural institution. Throughout the store, they’ve distributed life-sized silhouettes of fashions pulled from the store’s rich horde of documents. The celebration will continue until January 26, 2013.
- Reuters Video: Galeries Lafayette turns on its holiday lights (englishblog.com)
- The Paris scene outside L’Opera Garnier (noworriesparis.com)
- Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas… (thefakeparisienne.wordpress.com)