To Breathe

On Galeries Lafayette’s invitation, Korean artist Kimsooja illuminates the department store’s architecture with her light-oriented installation To Breathe.

By covering the iconic glass dome in Galeries Lafayette’s Paris Haussmann store with a special film that diffracts natural light into all the colours of the rainbow, Kimsooja transforms the dome’s external surfaces and internal spaces into iridescent landscapes that shift and change throughout the day. For this site-specific installation (the first in Paris on this scale), Kimsooja explores the building’s sensory and meditative qualities by focusing visitors’ attention on light to create an environment conducive to contemplation.

Centred around the store’s historic glass dome, Kimsooja’s installation creates an unprecedented dialogue with this iconic element of Galeries Lafayette’s architectural heritage. When it was first built back in 1912, the dome flooded the store’s interior with a multitude of hues thanks to the stained-glass windows designed by Jacques Grüber, since removed and replaced with white glass. By cleverly bringing coloured light back into the heart of this historic art nouveau building, To Breathe weaves a strong but delicate thread between works of art imagined more than a century apart.

An site-specific installation to be discover until 30 June 2023
Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann
40 boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris

#Kimsooja #ToBreathe

Courtesy Mathilde Assier - © Galerie des Galeries
Photo Giannis Vastardis. Courtesy Kimsooja Studio - © Galerie des Galeries


Born in 1957 in Daegu, Kimsooja is an internationally acclaimed multidisciplinary artist who currently lives and works between Paris and Seoul. She works across a broad range of media from performance, film, and photography to site-specific installations with textiles, light, and sound.

Kimsooja represented Korea at the 24th São Paulo Biennial (1998) and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and has been invited to take part in more than 40 contemporary art biennials and triennials. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at such prestigious venues as MoMA PS1, the Reina Sofía Museum’s Palacio de Cristal, Vancouver Art Gallery, Kunsthalle Wien, Kunsthalle Bern, Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art, SaintEtienne Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Bilbao and Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Kimsooja has taught at Beaux-Arts de Paris (2008-09) and was appointed Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2017. In 2022, Kimsooja inaugurated the stained-glass windows she designed for Metz’s gothic cathedral, which were commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture to mark the cathedral’s 800th anniversary.

A nomadic artist whose work revolves around the themes of exile and travel, Kimsooja explores the idea of movement – one’s own and other people’s – and the narratives it generates. For more than 40 years, the artist has focused on one of her culture’s timeless traditions: the bottari. This Korean word refers to a bundle wrapped in fabric, which Kimsooja sees 'as a self-contained world – but one which can contain everything, like a vessel, materially and conceptually'. By reappropriating the bottari as both an object and a symbol, the artist contemplates and questions the experience of migration, from departure to arrival and in-between, while also addressing the issue of status – one’s own and that of others.

Throughout the last few years, the artist has transposed bottari to fit the scale of different sites as part of the To Breathe project: a collection of site-specific works in which Kimsooja envelops spaces using diffractive films that bring their architecture to life and reveal their history. With a lightness of touch that recalls the ‘non-doing’ and 'non-making' principles: Kimsooja modifies spaces by viewing the entire architectural structure as a bottari of light.

Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries

'To Breathe'

In the interstitial dome space, the sound of the artist breathing permeates the air, along with the light transformed by her artwork titled The Weaving Factory (2004/2013).

Initially slow and barely perceptible, her inhalation and exhalation will gradually accelerate to become increasingly present – until the vitality of breathing intermingles with the sensory experience of colour. Surrounded by the rhythmic sound of breathing and the shifting chromatic landscape, the visitor is offered a unique opportunity for meditation and contemplation. By making two essential elements of life – air and light – visible and tangible, the artist suffuses the store with creative energy and invites each visitor to actively experience it for themselves.

'To breathe' echoes a particular aspect of Galeries Lafayette’s history. Back in the early 20th century, when the air was thought to be cleaner at altitude than in the streets, Parisians flocked to the department store to take advantage of the panoramic view. Standing on the rooftop terrace, they would look out over the city and breathe in the fresh air, enjoying a unique experience in the French capital.

Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries

To Breathe series

Kimsooja first conceived To Breathe in 2006, where she conceptually transformed the bottari into an architectural form. Using diffraction film, the artist wraps entire spaces to sublimate their architecture and reveal their stories, like bottari bundles made of light.

A work in motion, To Breathe reacts to the natural environment, harnessing the way light changes over time, in accordance with the weather and as the sun moves across the sky. When rays of light pass through it, the diffraction film creates ephemeral rainbow spectrums that shift and change as people move around the space. The artist invites viewers to observe and experience these unique, iridescent landscapes of colour, brought about by the principles of ‘non-doing’ and ‘non-making’ that are central to her work.

Initiated in 2006 for the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid, Kimsooja’s To Breathe series has taken different forms over the years in various venues, including Centre Pompidou-Metz (2015-16) and Leeum Museum of Art, Seoul (2021).

Photos Jaeho Chong. Courtesy Kimsooja Studio

Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Martine aux Galeries Lafayette
The Galeries Lafayette invites the iconic character of Martine to discover the shop on Boulevard Haussmann in a new album published by Casterman. An invitation to (re)visit the most emblematic of Parisian department stores through the eyes of the heroine. On sale exclusively at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann and in the chain's network of shops.
Home-page - © Galerie des Galeries
Heritage: Research Financing
In 2023, the Galeries Lafayette group is introducing a €3,000 grant for the publication or promotion of research work aimed at promoting the department store's historical and cultural heritage. In 2023, this grant will support Jérémie Cerman, for the publication of his research work on Maurice Dufrêne.

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