Louis Vuitton’s latest collaboration with renowned artist Jeff Koons is giving new meaning to Oscar Wilde’s declaration that “one should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” Koons, an artist known for his somewhat kitsch creations, has made legendary art accessible to popular culture and a new, big-spending demographic through his range of handbags, wallets, and other high-end accessories. The fifty-one-piece line, which features original designs by Koons, turns the work of old masters like Leonardo Da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh into fashion must-haves.
Inspired by Koons’s 2015 “Gazing Ball” series, which featured exact reproductions of a multitude of master pieces—including Monet’s “Water Lilies,” and Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss”—the Louis Vuitton collection is made up of five of history’s most famous paintings. Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Cypresses,” Rubens’s “The Tiger Hunt,” Titian’s “Mars, Venus, and Cupid,” and Fragonard’s “La Gimblette” are all sprawled across Vuitton’s signature styles and adorned with reflective gold or silver letters spelling the artist’s name, bringing a modern, hip-hop inspired edge to the age-old works. The bottom of each item features Koons’s initials, or logo, in one corner and the famous Louis Vuitton logo in the other. The leather loop around the handle, which is usually adorned with an LV lock or identification tag, has been replaced with one of Koons’s signature balloon bunnies.
Louis Vuitton does not expect the collaborative collection to be embraced by everyone, however. Michael Burke, the brand’s chief executive, said, “I think we’re going to get some pushback. People are going to be upset about the sacred entering the realm of the profane,” but he reminded the world that Louis Vuitton “likes to do things that can be perceived as politically incorrect.” The collaboration with Koons is hardly the brand’s first marriage to art, though. From the major museum exhibitions the designer underwrote in the 1990s to its collaborations with artists Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse, and Richard Prince to its innumerable fashion shows held at the Louvre, Louis Vuitton is no stranger to the world of art.
Although Koons has flirted with the idea of fashion in the past and has even recreated his own work for brands like Stella McCartney and H&M, but his collaboration with Vuitton is his first time creating original designs specifically for a brand. He saw the project as a great opportunity to expand his own audience in a constructive way, noting that “it’s a great platform for communication” that will allow him to put his work on the streets. “I hope people understand my ideas. I hope they embrace them as a continuation of my effort to erase the hierarchy attached to fine art and old masters,” the artist said, following his mission to eradicate the elitism in the art world. One of Koons’s gallerists, Larry Gagosian explained of the collection, “some people will probably thinks it’s too commercial, that serious artists shouldn’t make handbags, but I also think a lot of people will really dig them. They are extremely marketable.”
The Louis Vuitton x Jeff Koons line is indeed a remarkable combination of art, history, and fashion, but only time will tell whether consumers embrace the collection in the same way that the creators have.
Written by GABBY SHACKNAI
Visual Editor OLGA SOROKINA