Paris Opera House Turns Into Ancient Platonic Cave

French artist JR continues transforming famous sites into stunning illusions with an installation at Paris’ famed opera house.

The façade of Palais Garnier was turned into a stage for all to enjoy. Over the course of four evenings, lyrical performances and dance related to the opera were projected onto the installation.

Trompe-l'œil, Retour à la Caverne - Acte I
Trompe-l’œil, Retour à la Caverne – Acte I, 6 septembre 2023, 8h20, Palais Garnier, Opéra de Paris ©JR

This is the first of two consecutive installations that the Paris Opera has commissioned from the well-respected artist. The pieces take advantage of the restoration work being carried out at Palais Garnier, giving JR a blank canvas for his work. The installation takes inspiration from Plato’s philosophical allegory of the cave, a place whose exit provides access to knowledge and understanding of the world.

The piece titled Retour à la caverne – Act I – L’entrée de la caverne is visible until September 25. In November, JR will once again create a masterpiece for the theater. For this second installation, the façade will be replaced by a giant embroidered stage curtain. The public will be asked to try their hand at embroidery, free of charge, thus contributing to the installation.

“In Act I, Palais Garnier appears to be stuck between two times,” shares the artist. “At first glance, the building seems to be in ruins, a reflection of the fragility and eternity of Parisian monuments. But upon closer inspection, the piece can also be interpreted as a work of art in permanent construction. Alongside the century-old building and natural formations, contemporary scaffolding is present, a nod to the real and necessary work that physically supports this installation and monument.”

The piece is a beautiful celebration of classical art and philosophy given a contemporary twist by JR. On September 16 and September 17, the public also enjoyed a mix of pieces from Boléro, La Traviata, and Les Contes d’Hoffmann among the scenes on view.

The artist also created the Rising Up installation in Hong Kong recently. which depicts an athlete gracefully propelling herself backward above the Hong Kong skyline, inviting viewers to take off and achieve more. The work is an ode to JR’s first Giants installations which debuted during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and captured the perfect motion of athletes.

Rising Up, Hong Kong
JR, Rising Up, 10 Mars 2023, 18h43, Hong Kong, 2023

As an athletic gesture, “rising up” embodies taking the risk to separate oneself from solid earth, resist the pull of gravity, and feel the brief freedom of flight. The installation is on Ocean Deck Terminal in front of Victoria Harbor.

If you missed the above

You can still catch JR with his Les Enfants d’Ouranos series with a large-scale, site-specific installation on the south façade of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. The 200-foot long photographic montage, depicting children playfully running, is visible from Montauk Highway and will be on display until May 26, 2024.

Les Enfants d'Ouranos, Parrish Art Museum façade, ©JR
Les Enfants d’Ouranos, Parrish Art Museum façade, ©JR

For the Les Enfants d’Ouranos series, JR transferred images he took at refugee camps in Rwanda, Ukraine, Mauritania, Greece, and Colombia during his Déplacé.e.s project onto reclaimed wood. The effect is a reversal of light and dark that brings the children into a mythical realm. The title of the series translates to “The Children of Ouranos”—referring to the primordial Greek god of the sky who fathered the Titans, the first gods—and associates JR’s subjects with holiness. The work instills images of children directly impacted by global conflict and living in refugee camps with transcendence and influence.

📍 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, NY 11976
May 27, 2023 – May 26, 2024

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