Different strokes: Louis Vuitton and Jeff Koons put a new frame on Old Masters
In February, Louis Vuitton presented its A/W 2017 collection in the Louvre’s breathtaking Cour Marly, a space which houses sculptures from the 17th and 18th century, originally commissioned for the gardens of Louis XIV’s Château de Marly countryside home. As the models, dressed in leather motorcross jackets and silk dresses, walked alongside bronze and marble statues, the Parisian house fused the contemporary with the classic in a new dialogue between fashion and art.
This is a conversation continued further in Louis Vuitton’s new collaboration with artist Jeff Koons, which sees imagery from his Gazing Ball paintings – hand-painted reproductions of works by the Old Masters, from Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503) to Titian’s Mars, Venus, and Cupid (after 1546) – reimagined in a collection of bags and accessories. The collection will be unveiled at a dinner tonight at the Louvre Museum, hosted by Jean-Luc Martinez, the president-director of the Louvre, who we spoke to recently for our April 2017 issue (W*217) about the opening of its Abu Dhabi gallery later this year.
Koons has reworked Louis Vuitton’s Monogram with his own initials, the first time in the brand’s history that it has been altered
In a collection that weaves a host of different lineages – the art canon, Koons’ own career and the heritage of Louis Vuitton – visuals from the artist’s 2013 series have been transposed onto a selection of the Parisian label’s signature bag silhouettes, including the Speedy, the Keepall and the Neverfull. The names of artists, including Van Gogh, Rubens and Fragonard, is also emblazoned in block capitals on their respective artworks.
‘What the Gazing Ball series of paintings is really about is communicating how when you give it up to something else, when you find something of greater interest outside yourself, you’re able to achieve transcendence and have a life with greater breadth to it,’ Koons explains. ‘If we want to achieve transcendence, we are able to look at even the simplest thing outside ourselves, or the most complex, and find awe and wonderment in that. And our parameters expand.’
Vuitton’s parameters have expanded too. Since 2001, artists have been asked to rework its signature Monogram, like Stephen Sprouse, who graffitied over it in bold colours, and Richard Prince, who overlaid it with screen printings in the style of his canvases. For the first time, Koons has modifed the typography of the Monogram, and it bears his own initials. Layering multiple biographies, the bag’s outer bears a tag in the shape of an inflatable rabbit, a motif of Koons’ career, while its inner features a biography and portrait of the Master whose work has been referenced.
The paintings in Koons’ Gazing Ball series feature a single, blue mirrored sphere, a popular feature piece in American suburban gardens. The orb reflects the viewer, creating a link between the artist and audience, inviting self-reflection. Louis Vuitton’s Masters collection once again encourages a narrative, a new history being chartered between owner, Koons and the Old Master that they feel the greatest emotional and aesthetic connection to.