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Home>Exhibitions & Events>Exhibitions>Contemporary art - François Morellet, “L'esprit d'escalier”

Exhibition Contemporary art - François Morellet, “L'esprit d'escalier”

from January 28, 2010 to July 31, 2010

Pursuing its commitment to commission permanent contributions by living artists, the Louvre Museum entrusted François Morellet with the creation of the Lefuel Staircase window installations.

The Lefuel Staircase, a monumental white stone structure boasting a double flight of stairs, richly decorated with sculptures and bathed in the light of multiple bay windows, was built between 1852 and 1858 in the north wing of the Nouveau Louvre. Now in the Richelieu Wing, it runs from the Sculptures Department on the ground floor to the Decorative Arts Department on the first floor, and then up to the galleries devoted to the paintings of the Northern schools on the second floor.

With lightness and elegance, François Morellet redesigned its bay windows and oculi to create L’Esprit d’escalier. He took pleasure in "fragmenting and destabilizing the panes of glass with their rather inelegant ironwork, and confronting them with their own image, created using an old and invaluable technique of the master glassworkers."

It was a rather delicate exercise, since he had to work around a number of the building’s constraints – like the size and ancient ironwork of the panes – while ensuring that they remain visible nonetheless. Morellet’s creation superimposes the reversed design of the existing grid against the old outline. In order to perceive the old shape within the new, François Morellet used different types of glass, and assembled them with traditional leading techniques.

While the installation bathes the structure in a new light, the removal of the old glass from the central oculus restored the former perspective across the Decorative Arts galleries. The artist wanted to leave it free, even if it meant opting for a different choice of glass, for he did not want "to make the décor symmetrical and identical throughout the staircase," but rather "adapt to each context and let chance play its part."

Co-commission by the Louvre Museum and the Centre national des arts plastiques – French Ministry of Culture and Communication, under the patronage of GDF Suez, with the support of the Cercle des Jeunes Mécènes du Louvre.
Media partners : France Culture, Paris Première and Beaux-Arts Magazine.

Organized by: Marie-Laure Bernadac, Curator in Charge, Special Advisor on Contemporary Art, Musée du Louvre

Practical information


Richelieu Wing, Lefuel Staircase

Admission fees

Access included with the purchase of an admission to the Museum’s permanent collections or a combined ticket (but not with an admission to the temporary exhibitions).