Versailles, the opulent royal landmark that awes millions of visitors each year, is adding yet another bauble to its crown–or 2,000 baubles, to be exact. French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel is near to completing three fountain-sculptures composed of 2,000 bowling ball-sized orbs that are set to be installed later this summer, the first new permanent piece on the property in 300 years.
For the sculptures, titled Beautiful Dances, Othoniel found inspiration in Sun King Louis XIV’s love of dance and his patronage of Venetian artisans. “I am dialoguing with history,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “but also creating a contemporary discourse that will become the next chapter in the history of a legendary location.”
It’s a mode familiar to Othoniel, who has also installed his signature glass “necklaces” at the entrance to a Paris Metro station, at the Alhambra in Granada, and at the Villa Medici in Rome.
The commission is the visual capstone of renovations to the Water Theater Grove, a 17th-century garden designed by André Le Nôtre, the royal landscaper whose proclivity toward grand, radiating avenues later influenced the plans for the Champs-Élysées and Washington, D.C. The garden has been closed for nearly 25 years, due to a severe storm that ravaged the grounds, located 18 miles west of Paris, in 1990.