Les Belles Danses/The New Water Theater Grove of Versailles

For the first time in three centuries, the gardens of the Palace of Versailles are graced with a permanent, site-specific installation, Les Belles Danses (The Beautiful Dances), by a contemporary artist, Jean-Michel Othoniel, who won an international competition with the landscape designer Louis Benech to revitalize the Water Theatre grove. For this commission, Jean-Michel Othoniel created three fountain sculptures in gilded glass, inspired by the work of choreographer Raoul-Auger Feuillet, dancing master for the court of King Louis XIV. The artist’s three fountain sculptures reflect several characteristics of his recent work: monumentality, relationship to history, and innovation.

On this occasion, Dilecta, a french publishing house, and the Art gallery Perrotin have released Les Belles Danses, Versailles: Dans Le Bosquet du Théâtre d’eau redessin par Louis Benech. In these pages, Robert Storr, an American art critic and curator, analyses Jean-Michel Othoniel’s exceptional creations, with respect to contemporary art. In Les Belles Danses, Jean-Michel Othoniel presents the genesis of his work through sketches, watercolors, technical drawings, and other documents. Composed like a baroque ballet, this book, illustrated  with numerous pictures, shows the evolution of Les Belles Danses through the four seasons, and as they confront natural elements, including the changing lights of Versailles’s sky. The book reveals the various steps of their creations, and gathers archives, the artist’s references and notes, and unveils the conception of his work.

Over the course of this evening, Jean-Michel Othoniel and Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide will explain how the century of Louis XIV has influenced Othoniel’s own work. He will also discuss the wide and rich references that arise from this timeless sculptures.


Born in 1964 in Saint-Étienne. Jean Michel Othoniel lives and works in Paris. Since the end of the 1980s, he has been inventing a world that ranges from drawing to sculpture, from installation to photography, from writing to performance. After first exploring materials with reversible qualities, such as sulfur and wax, he has been working in glass since 1993. Jean-Michel Othoniel is frequently called upon by contemporary architects to create site-specific artworks at historical sites, including numerous sculptures for Peter Marino and Jean Nouvel. His current work takes on an architectural dimension; through both public and private commissions, he has created installations in gardens and historical sites the world over.

Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide  is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of art. She is responsible for the French, English, and Dutch furniture collections and the French period rooms. Daniëlle supervised the 2006 renovation of The Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts, and, in 2013, she was the co-curator of an exhibition at Bard Graduate Center on the origins of French decorative arts at the Met. She has lectured and written extensively on various aspects of European decorative arts, and is preparing the 2017 exhibition Visitors to Versailles, 1682–1789. She is graduate of the Free University in Amsterdam and Leiden University. She is the co-author of European Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Highlights of the Collection (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006); and The Wrightsman Galleries for French Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010); as well as Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: The Bard Graduate Center, 2013).