Redesigned by Louis Benech, Water Theatre Grove at Palais de Versailles given a new lease of life

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Redesigned by Louis Benech, Water Theatre Grove at Palais de Versailles given a new lease of life
Fountain sculpture by Jean-Michel Othoniel.

PARIS.- After two years' work the Water Theatre Grove, redesigned by Louis Benech and enhanced with fountain sculptures by Jean-Michel Othoniel, will be open from 12th May 2015.

As we celebrate the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV, a great builder and patron of the arts, this work is proof that the Palace of Versailles remains at the heart of contemporary creation.

Built between 1671 and 1674 by André Le Nôtre, then destroyed in 1775, the Water Theatre Grove lay dormant for many years. Then, in 2009 the Palace of Versailles decided to create a contemporary garden there that would respect the overall setting of Versailles and its history.

The landscaper Louis Benech and the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, winners of the international competition held for the grove's refurbishment, have created a bold project for which work began in May 2013.

The Project by Louis Benech and Jean-Michel Othoniel
"You need to hear Louis Benech talking about the ternary pattern in the composition of the Water Theatre Grove and Jean-Michel Othoniel describing the steps of the " belle danse" (beautiful dance) that inspired the fountains in order to appreciate how much the spirit of Louis XIV is ever-present in this contemporary creation," stresses Catherine Pégard, President of the Palace of Versailles.

The two artists based their creation on what remained of the grove. Taking inspiration almost exclusively from the location's history, they have returned to its original idea: that of a theatre of greenery where water effects play with the plant structure and a celebratory atmosphere reigns.

Louis Benech's grove is a welcoming, permanently open place where visitors embark on a walk punctuated with breaks in the shade of holm oaks, before coming across a large clearing filled with light and water that is divided into a large "auditorium" and a raised "stage" laid out in two pools.

In order to recount the past without the use of mythology, mimicry or diversion, the landscaper has come up with a series of delicate allusions to Le Nôtre's work - perspective effects, recurring ternary patterns - and has laid out a natural green outline with the landmarks and dimensions of the lost grove.

Jean-Michel Othoniel has created three monumental fountain sculptures, Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances) positioned on the surface of the water in the pools. These abstract works composed of loops and arabesques made of Murano glass evoke the body in movement, directly inspired by the ballets given by Louis XIV and the by book The Art of describing dance, written by Raoul-Auger Feuillet in 1701. Their graceful, powerful water jets perform minuets and rigaudons resembling lacework in motion.

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