In two matching fountain basins, giant steel boules tilt gently on the flow of water, giving subtly changing reflections.  This is the central courtyard of the Palais Royal, reopened earlier this year after restoration of the surrounding porticos and galleries.





The view through the north portico gives glimpses of the garden, with the giant stone letters of Une Pierre dans Mon Jardin.  The south portico leads onto the inner courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, punctuated by the striped columns of Les Deux Plateaux.  This installation, by French artist Daniel Burren, was controversial when it was unveiled in 1986, replacing a car park.  Now it seems low key and inoffensive.  On a showery weekday lunchtime the view looks empty but sounds lively, as water runs in channels below the grills.  At a weekend, or on a summer evening, the courtyard is animated by children of all ages perching on the column that suits their size and confidence, or zooming between the pillars on scooters.



Critics of the installation complained that the money should have been spent on a monument appropriate to the historic setting.  In many ways this installation is the antithesis of a monument, it has no focal point, no object, no obvious theme.   To my mind, the columns enhance the space by leaving each visitor to respond in their own way.  Resting on a column to admire the view, striking a pose for a family photo or playing a game of off-ground tag, each individual is an ephemeral monument to human individuality.