Louis Vuitton's latest artistic link-up is with Jeff Koons
Welcome to the birth of Classical Kitsch Luxury.
The world’s largest luxury label, Louis Vuitton, is linking up with the man who holds the record for the most expensive price paid for a work by a living artist, Jeff Koons.
But instead of his signature metallic Balloon Dogs – for which he holds the auction record of $58.4 million - or a giant topiary white terrier Puppy, Koons has created a series of bags and accessories to be launched on April 28.
Koons shamelessly plays on his own series “Gazing Ball” where he placed blue metal balls before reproductions of five paintings by great masters –Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa; Ruben’s Tiger Hunt; Fragonard’s La Gimblette; Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Cypresses and Titian’s Mars, Venus and Cupid – to develop a series of bags, such as the Speedy, the Keepall and the Neverful.
“I would hope that when someone walks down the street with this, that they are really celebrating humanity,” said Koons, holding a Rubens/Vuitton bag in a video on the brand’s website. “I wanted it to become art, and I believe these bags are art."
Each sack bears the original artist’s name done in metal outside. All five museums that own these art works, including the Louvre, will receive royalties from sales, hoping too that the bags will encourage millennials to actually visit a museum of classical art.
One will never know how the great painters of the Renaissance would react to seeing their sacred works turned into handbags. But we could imagine how LV would react if someone “lifted” their pattern and used it. By suing them. Back in 2010, Vuitton forced the removal of nine locust sculptures made in its counterfeit toile from an exhibition in Kobe, Japan; while in 2000 it sued street-wear label Supreme for making skateboards and beanies in its monogram. Ironically, last year Vuitton linked up with the same brand in a collaborative collection that comes out this summer.
LV is not unfamiliar with the Louvre – seeing as it staged its latest runway show in the museum in March. Nor is Koons unfamiliar with French museums. In 2008, the The Neo Pop artist exhibited 15 of his sculptures, like his pink metal rabbit, inside Versailles Palace, provoking an enormous polemic among French critics; while his 2015 show in the Pompidou Center contained a ceramic sculpture of two naked children for which he was later successfully sued for plagiarism.
Beginning in 2001 with Stephen Sprouse, Vuitton has worked with a series of artists such as Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Stephen Sprouse, Cindy Sherman, James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson and Daniel Buren on various commissioned artworks, from accessories to covering the Louis Foundation. However, Koons was allowed to redraw the house’s sacred monogram – altering both the flowers and stars and even adding his initials JK to the LV.
And while there is no balloon dog or puppy, each Koons Vuitton bag also carries a tag in the shape of an inflatable rabbit - an enduring motif in Koons’s work throughout his 40-year career. Biographies of each Master are featured on the inside of their different bag. Prices range from a Zippy Fragonard purse at 1,200 euros to blue Ruben Palm Springs backpack at 2,400 euros to a Montaigne Mona Lisa for 3,000 euros.
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