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This stunning optical illusion reveals the Eiffel Tower like you’ve never seen it before

A French artist creates a clever trick of the eye that reimagines the landscape under the country’s famous monument.

This stunning optical illusion reveals the Eiffel Tower like you’ve never seen it before
[Photo: Gao Jing/Xinhua/Getty Images]
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What if the Eiffel Tower had been built on a craggy ravine, rather than on the flat landscape of Paris?

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If you visit the Eiffel Tower over the next month, you’ll be able to see this scenario play out. French artist JR has created an art installation beneath the 132-year-old structure that makes it look like a gaping hole has opened beneath it, with scenes of Paris streets in the distance below and ahead. The playful exhibit invites visitors to interact with it, taking pictures of themselves appearing to fall into the canyon.

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To create the installation, JR set up a plastic screen on the Trocadéro, a tourist spot about a kilometer away from the Eiffel Tower that offers a beautiful view of the monument. By playing with proportions in the image, JR has made the Eiffel Tower seem much closer than it really is, and the person standing in the image looks like they are underneath it.

This installation fits into JR’s broader body of work, which centers on trompe l’oeil, or trick of the eye. In March of this year, he had an installation in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy, called The Wound, which made it appear as if the building had an enormous hole in it, exposing an imaginary scene inside. In 2019, he positioned thousands of pieces of paper in the courtyard of the Louvre in Paris, making it appear as if the glass pyramid entrance was shattering the rock below. In 2017, he took on then-President Donald Trump’s border wall by creating a giant baby’s head peering from the U.S. into Mexico.

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[Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images]
JR’s trompe l’oeil is the perfect backdrop for an Instagram photo shoot. And this seems to be JR’s intention. As visitors stop by to create their own image, it’s clear that they’ve positioned themselves in the perfect spot, so it looks like they’re peering into the ravine below or jumping across it.

About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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