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Health, Beauty & Fashion

LV with a glam rock touch

Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs at Les Arts Decoratifs is a 'weird' hybrid show
The Straits Times - March 29, 2012
By: Suzy Menkes
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LV with a glam rock touch -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Paris - Surely that mannequin is meant to be Kate Moss - even if she is on all fours in a cage and with the head of a panther? And those bonbon creations, displayed in pleated paper as in a classic chocolate box, are indisputably handbags.

The logos define the purses as Louis Vuitton. For this is the upper floor of a two-level exhibition in Paris devoted to the founder of the company who stamped his initials on travel trunks, and designer Marc Jacobs, who introduced sex, glamour and rock 'n' roll.

Louis Vuitton - Marc Jacobs at Les Arts Decoratifs through Sept 16 is a weird hybrid show. It is imaginative in its displays of the brand's iconic travel trunks and of an X-ray version of everything that went inside them, from stockings to night shirts.

It is daring and exuberant in its turning wheel of 10 dancing legs, labelled Just For Kicks, or a 'peep show' wall that draw eyes towards fashion shows by Jacobs, who has been the creative director at Louis Vuitton since 1997.

The exhibition is designed to compare and contrast the portly and bourgeois Vuitton with the skinny and louche Jacobs. The problem is how to make Louis and Marc hang together.

Ms Pamela Golbin, the show's curator, set out to find the points of contact, saying of that 'chocolate box' display of 53 purses from the 15 Jacobs years: 'Everything starts with a bag, it is an object of desire.'

The display is artfully produced by Mr Sam Gainsbury and Ms Anna Whiting, with art director Joseph Bennett. But there are not many ways to present the lightweight travel trunk, born of the 19th-century industrial revolution and a new era of travel. A large amount of money seems to have been spent on installing sleek wood panels and backdrops that reinforce the feeling that the exhibition might be a department-store display.

So after the historical displays in the museum tradition, the exhibition moves upstairs to the fun part. It has displays exotic and erotic: charming animal heads as in a children's fairy tale, fantastical collaborations with the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and the graffiti of Stephen Sprouse. It ends with a line-up of nurses, as in the work of the artist Richard Prince.

What is not included is any attempt to put the transformation of Louis Vuitton from tony trunks to hip handbags into any historical context.

Since the exhibition is entertaining and more serious explanations are given in the accompanying catalogue, does it matter that this seems more like a brand promotion than a curatorial endeavour?

'It is not publicity,' Ms Beatrice Salmon, director of the Arts Decoratifs museums, said. 'We at the museum are here to analyse a phenomenon and look at the 'arts de vivre' with a historical perspective and at objects that have changed the rules of the game.' She added that it was true that all of the museum's exhibitions are underwritten, referring to displays including Yohji Yamamoto, Sonia Rykiel and Viktor & Rolf.

'We don't have much funding and the problem is the same for all museums,' she said. 'There is no contemporary art exhibition which does not have the support of the artist's gallery.'

You can wager a cute Marc Jacobs purse or a historic trunk that Louis Vuitton will continue its travel history by moving this show to a museum in Shanghai or beyond.

 

International Herald Tribune

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