“It’s a very profound object, a bag,” mused American artist Jeff Koonsearlier this year, when his collaboration with Louis Vuitton was launched. “What we put in them are things that are very personal, very meaningful, things that help us survive in this world.” And certainly there are multiple layers of meaning to the range, entitled Masters, the second wave of which is released today.
The collection looks to Loons’ 2015 Gazing Ball series, in which he created large-scale reproductions of famous historic paintings and adorned each one with a blue mirrored sphere, so that viewers could see their own reflections at the same time as the imitation masterpiece. For the Louis Vuitton range, the paintings were once again scaled down and reproduced on the brand’s most recognizable handbag silhouettes, each one emblazoned with the name of the original artist and finished with a leather inflatable rabbit – “a reference to my presence,” said Loons; his colossal 1986 stainless-steel sculpture Rabbit being one of his most recognizable works.
The initial launch in April saw work by Da Vinci, Titian, Fragonard, Van Gogh and Rubens recreated across Louis Vuitton’s Speedy, Keepall and Neverfull bags. Now six more masterpieces have been added to the range: Claude Monet’s Waterlilies, Paul Gauguin’s Delightful Land, Edouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, J.M.W Turner’s Ancient Rome, Francois Boucher’s Reclining Girl and Nicolas Poussin’s The Triumph of Pan, the latter available exclusively at Vuitton’s newly reopened Place Vendôme boutique.
New handbag shapes have also been introduced, including the Montaigne, the Pochette and the Noé, all embellished with both the LV monogram and Koons’ reinterpretation of it using his own initials. In Vuitton’s long and well-documented history of collaborating with artists, Koons was the first one permitted to rework the monogram: a fitting nod to his status as the world’s most expensive living artist. In 2013, his Balloon Dog (Orange) steel sculpture sold for $58.4 million. In inviting the seminal artist to bring his favourite works to life in leather, Louis Vuitton’s latest launch allows customers to buy into art history in more ways than one.