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From stores filled with sculpture, to masterpiece monograms by artists, Louis Vuitton champions contemporary art. A new exhibition in Hong Kong celebrates the relationship between art and fashion at the luxury goods house.

It is telling that at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, where a new exhibition Louis Vuitton: A Passion for Creation recently opened, the building’s exterior is covered not in the luxury goods house’s distinctive LV logo, but instead is wrapped in an artwork by Richard Prince. Such is the label’s close association with contemporary art that, in terms of branding, the monogram is interchangeable with masterpieces.

“The ties between Louis Vuitton and art are diverse, inspiring and highly creative,” explains Hervé Mikaeloff, one of the curator’s of the Hong Kong show that runs until August 9th, 2009. On display is a wide range of fashion/art crossovers, including the brand’s signature accessories created in collaboration with blue chip artists, and a selection of artworks from the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Creation. These include pieces by Jeff Koons, Gilbert & George, Andreas Gursky and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as specially commissioned pieces by seven young Hong Kong artists.

While collaborations between artists and fashion houses are nothing new, increasingly they are an important tool in brand positioning. Recent partnerships include Prada’s sponsorship of a restaurant in London conceived by the artist Karsten Holler, Chanel Mobile Art, a traveling gallery that was filled with specially commissioned installations, and a capsule collection of Hermès scarves printed with Josef Albers “Hommage to the Square”.

“Louis Vuitton has crossed the border of art and fashion in a way few other brands have done,” says Mikaeloff by way of differentiation. Indeed, it was Marc Jacobs who elevated art at Louis Vuitton from the status of good PR to an intrinsic part of its collections. He invented the highly profitable formula of It bag + contemporary art = uber accessory.

In 2001, Jacobs commissioned artist and designer Stephen Sprouse to create the iconic Monogram Graffiti collection, which this year was reissued after a subtle update. This was followed up in 2003 with Takashi Murakami’s various creations, including Monogram Multicolore, Monogram Cherry and Monogramouflage. Most recently, in 2008, Richard Prince designed Monogram Jokes.

“Although they are not chosen systematically, Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, and Richard Prince are all Post-Pop artists renowned for incorporating everyday objects into their work. So it was natural for them to accept Marc Jacobs’s proposal to reinterpret LV aesthetics,” says Mikaeloff.

Outside of the collections, art can also be found within Louis Vuitton stores around the world, including pieces by James Turrell and Haluk Akakce. The brand’s first dedicated art space, the Espace Louis Vuitton, opened in 2006 on the seventh floor of the Paris flagship store. A blacked-out elevator created by artist Olafur Eliasson provides access to the gallery.

The most ambitious art project undertaken by Louis Vuitton is undoubtedly the forthcoming Frank Gehry-designed architectural extravaganza that will provide a permanent exhibition space for the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Creation in Paris’s Bois de Boulogne. A model of the building, which is scheduled to open in 2012, is also on show at the Hong Kong exhibition.

“Based on the shared values of passion and creativity, art and luxury interact with each other, increasing the points of exchange and overturning the usual boundaries between these two worlds,” remarks Yves Carcelle, Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton. A visit to this Hong Kong exhibition is to discover that at Louis Vuitton, the boundaries between art and fashion have been removed.

More info:

Louis Vuitton: A Passion For Creation, runs until August 9, 2009 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art.
http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/ce/Museum/Arts/english/exhibitions/exhibitions01_apr09_01.html

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