JR | L’observatoire in Venice

Lifestyle, Top Stories

JR | L’observatoire in Venice

The new carriage created by JR for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is unveild in a historic floating display during the Venice Biennale.

This Venice Biennale, JR reveals a work long in the making: over the past three years, he has meticulously created L’Observatoire, a Venice Simplon-Orient-Express carriage. A true artwork in motion, the carriage is presented on a barge on the canal. From April 17th to 22nd, the public is invited to peer through eye-shaped portholes placed in the carriage windows to discover JR’s creative haven unfold through intricately crafted spaces.


From pasting eyes on the outside of train cars in Kibera, Kenya for Women Are Heroes to his Mind the Gap artwork of 700 miniature trains moving in tandem to form faces, railways have long been a canvas for JR. With L’Observatoire, he worked directly with a piece of history to reimagine what a VSOE carriage could be. He dove into the archive of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, exploring how acclaimed Art Deco designers, such as René Prou and René Lalique, conceptualized the original carriage fleet.

L’Observatoire is inspired by the design of JR’s personal art studio in Paris, astronomical observatories, and the cabinets of curiosity of Renaissance Europe. JR crafted the space using artisanal century-old techniques that preserve the train’s pre-1945s look and feel while creating environments filled with hidden details that drive curiosity and instill a sense of imagination. Intricate marquetry spans across the carriage rooms, which include a library and secret tearoom.

L’Observatoire is the first Venice Simplon-Orient-Express carriage to ever be designed by an artist and is the most spacious train suite in the world. For the reveal, JR recreates the iconic 1982 moment when the Étoile du Nord dining car and one of the sleeper carriages was presented on the lagoon during the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’s first trip to Venice.


Discover the carriage during the first week of the Biennale Arte in Venice before it hits the rails in 2025.





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