Paris Palais Royal columns get 6 million euro facelift

PARIS Fri Jan 8, 2010 1:56pm EST

1 of 2. View of the renovated 'Les Deux Plateaux' work, more commonly referred to as the 'Colonnes de Buren' (Buren's Columns) designed by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren, in the courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris January 6, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - A stark installation of modernist columns in the courtyard of the 17th century Palais Royal, which caused an uproar in Paris when it was unveiled nearly 25 years ago, was relaunched on Friday after a 6 million euro ($8.59 million) facelift.

The 260 black and white marble pillars by French artist Daniel Buren provided an early taste of the mix of modern and ancient that gave Paris the famed glass pyramid which now stands in the courtyard of the Louvre museum.

"The creation of this work in Paris was an event, I'd even say it marked the entry -- the arrival for some, the intrusion for others -- of the most contemporary art into the very heart of historic architecture," Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said in a speech.

The columns, commissioned under former Socialist Culture Minister Jack Lang, caused fierce controversy when they were set up in 1986 in a space that had been used as a car park.

But they have since won great popularity among skateboarders, strolling Parisians and children playing in the garden just behind the historic Comedie Francaise theater in the heart of old Paris.

"Since the very beginning, I was delighted and interested to see people coming," Buren told reporters. "They're still there, they talk, meet up, children make up games," he said. "It's a great pleasure to me."

Over the years, the installation had become damaged but the overhaul, which improved technical aspects including weatherproof sealing, underground drainage systems and lighting, left the columns little changed to the casual observer.

"They are as they were nearly 25 years ago," Buren said. "It's been very well done. Even if you can't see them, the improvements will be very important for the future."

(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Elizabeth Pineau, editing by Paul Casciato)

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