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Colonnes de Buren at Palais Royal Post-Op

“What are those?”


I love taking people to the Jardin du Palais Royal. It’s one of the most peaceful gardens in Paris, with pretty trees, a large fountain, and some of the best window shopping in town beneath the historic arcades. But to get there you have to pass the Colonnes de Buren. I try and distract people with naughty historical facts (“This used to be considered the Las Vegas of Paris!”) or shallow pop culture references (“Those are the ‘Arago’ disks from the Da Vinci Code“), but inevitably they get distracted by…the art. 

Obviously I’m not impressed. The Colonnes de Buren are black and white striped pillars of differing sizes named for their designer, originally installed in what was the parking lot for the Ministry of Culture in 1986. Their real name is “Les Deux Plateaux”. They have always been quite controversial, so when they were shrouded in construction walls for the past year I wasn’t the only one who hoped they’d be removed. but alas, they were simply in dire need of a facelift.

Et voila, here they are, shiny and new again. I still don’t like them, but I fortunately the French aren’t so snobby as to deny people the pleasure of climbing around on the art, and when spring and summer roll around they will once again become a prime playground area for small kids, and a convenient spot to rest your Paris-weary legs. 


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  • Well Heather, thanks for this, because I was forever forgetting that they were all wrapped up and taking people there on my Paris photo tours after building them up to the, as you say, rather controvertial artisticness of the things but with tons of photographic potential only to have to say, oh, umm, sorry, but the fountain in the garden’s nice…So I’m glad I can now go back to happily watching people standing on one leg with their arms out like idiots of top of these things with a big benevolent smile on my face.I like them actually, but as much for the fact that they have succeeded in making as many people hate them, as I think that’s ultimately what art should be all about: getting a reaction, whatever flavour it is.

  • Quand les colonnes ont été petit à petit installées, en 1986, le site était entouré de palissades avec des ouvertures pour que les badauds puissent observer l’avancée des travaux. La palissade fut vite couverte d’inscriptions commentant l’oeuvre. La meilleur était: "Des zèbres qui bandent?".