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Versailles

France

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During visiting hours, millions of people have been or will go to the Château de Versailles. But only 100 had the entire palace to themselves and dined by candlelight in the Galerie des Batailles (one of its main grand rooms) a couple of weeks ago.

The inauguration night of the Gabriel Chandelier (above right), a magnificent contemporary 12-meter-long Swarovski crystal light installation designed by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, was one impressive and exciting experience to create a soundscape for. Even to the most blasé, unless you are totally ignorant, visiting nearly alone Versailles by night sans surveillance, walking by Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, stopping over at the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces), and sensing King Louis XIV’s ghost remains a breathtaking encounter.

Growing up in Paris, Versailles is never far away. In schoolbooks, history classes, music lessons, and weekend picnics, Le Château de Versailles truly lives in the heart of French history and culture. The Galerie des Batailles, where the long (50 meter) dining table was set, is a wide galerie created by Louis-Philippe I, King of the French, and ironically the last king to rule France before being forced to abdicate in 1848. Glorifying French military history, the room is full of paintings and sculpted busts of admirals, marshals, and princes. It was an unusual surrounding, even for guests like Azzedine Alaïa, Carla Sozzani, and Nadja and Helmut Swarovski. Invitees also included a new guard of designers, such as Anthony Vaccarello and Damir Doma. Versailles might have opened up its gardens to contemporary art since 2009 by exhibiting Jeff Koons, and recently Joana Vasconcelos and Giuseppe Penone, but nonetheless the iconic palace has never allowed much modernity or mundanity inside its opulent Baroque walls. Thanks to talented French design duo the Bouroullec brothers and Swarovski, Versailles is taking a giant step into the future.

For more information, visit http://en.chateauversailles.fr/.

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Photos: Courtesy of Mimi Xu

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