cy twombly, in paris, on the ceiling


One morning in late January, after a ride on the Paris métro to its terminus in the eastern suburb of Montreuil and a cold 10-minute walk through an industrial zone, I arrive at a nondescript, unheated warehouse. Inside, laid out on the floor of the large, open space, is a 33-meter-long white canvas, composed of 11 strips stapled together. The canvas is still mostly blank, with unfinished spheres in shades of blue, white, and yellow. Music plays softly in the background as three painters perform the immense task of painting what will portray a vast skyscape. These unromantic working-class environs are an unlikely place to find what might be one of the more romantic possibilities in art: a painting for the ceiling of the Louvre. As part of its mission to add contemporary artists’ work to its vast collection of paintings and crafts dating back to antiquity, the Louvre asked the American artist Cy Twombly to paint the ceiling of one of its galleries, the Salle des Bronzes. Twombly agreed, and for the first time since Georges Braque in 1953, a living artist’s work will adorn a ceiling of the iconic museum.

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