In April 2017, Louis Vuitton unveiled its first striking collaboration with acclaimed contemporary artist Jeff Koons.
Jeff Koons, born in 1955 in York, Pennsylvania, is one of the most internationally recognized figures in the modern art scene. Mostly known for his reproductions of bland objects, he transforms regular articles into entertaining and accessible works of art - or "art" as some might deem it to be. It's safe to say that Koons is definitely a controversial artist. He famously creates balloon animals produced in stainless steel with mirror-like finishes...that sell for over $50 million. Yes, you did read that correctly. Beloved by the uber-wealthy, some do consider his work to be innovative and exalted. Deemed a genius by some, his pieces are whimsical with a satirical touch. While others have dubbed his work as kitsch. Critics have claimed that Koons is a businessman that is not actually an artist, but rather the epitome of all that is wrong and fraudulent with modern art culture. Yikes. Regardless, love him or hate him, it doesn't matter - you know his name and you definitely know his work.
Two worlds collided when Louis Vuitton was inspired by Koons's Gazing Ball series - a collection that featured metallic blue balls placed over various reproductions of classical masterpieces. Again, another controversial series that left its viewers with mixed opinions. However, LV design team took quite the interest in it. Thus, the collaboration began.
The Masters collection, a line of handbags and accessories featuring hand-painted imagery from the Gazing Ball series, received a swarm of dialogue amongst the fashion and art lovers of the world. Da Vinci, Titan, Rubens, Fragonard and Van Gogh, known as the Old Masters, are the featured painters. Hence the name, eminent works by these defining artists have been recreated and mounted on to some of Louis Vuitton's signature pieces. The iconic Speedy, Neverfull, and Keepall have been transformed into literal works of art (if one were to argue they were't already) with the artists' names prominently embellished on the front. Inside the bags, you'll find a small portrait and information on the original artist - an interesting, educational touch. An inflatable rabbit tag dangles from each bag, a recognizable feature in Koons's work. For the first time in the maison's history, the famous monogram logo has been reworked into an intertwined "JK" to bear the artist's initials - this is a very big deal.
"What's wonderful about working with Louis Vuitton is that there really aren't any parameters. When they come and speak to you about a project, everybody already has an understanding of what the possibilities are to create something special. We both had the same objective; we wanted to make something that really uses material, texture and colour to communicate and create something desirable. So there was tremendous freedom," Koons told Vogue UK when chatting about the collaboration.
Overall, it was extremely successful. Jeff Koons fans rejoiced as they ran to the closest Louis Vuitton store to pick up a Speedy 35 embellished with Van Gogh's sunflowers. Die-hard Louis Vuitton lovers were the first to invest in a Neverfull printed with the face of Da Vinci's Monalisa. But of course, when collaborating with an artist like Jeff Koons, there is going to be some negative feedback. The LV x Koons collaboration, regardless of its success, remained controversial. While some deemed the collection as "high-end Louvre souvenirs," and "cheap knock-offs."
If you were one of those individuals who wasn't a fan of the collection, to put it lightly - your opinion didn't really matter. This is because LV x Koons 2.0 unveiled in October, several months after the first collaboration debuted. The second collection was more or less the same principal as the first, however it featured famous works from artists including Monet, Turner, Poussin, Manet, Gauguin, and Boucher. This collection is still available in stores and online now.
"They are part of my DNA," explains Koons. "When someone walks down the street with this bag, or sits in a cafe with this bag it's communicating a love of humanism," Koons continued when speaking of the Manet Neverfull style. Manet was one of Koons's biggest loves, saying his "genes changed" when he first saw one of the artist's paintings.
Fashion and art have always had a meeting place - they're synonymous. The blending of two worlds, which inevitably become one, creates something powerful - something that evokes emotion and opinion. The collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Jeff Koons exudes exactly this. There is no distinction between fashion and art - and there is no reason for high end masterpieces to not be accessible to those who appreciate it. The combination of luxury so perfectly depicted is the very reason these collections took the world by storm. Regardless of the opinion of others, we will definitely be heading down to LV to snag our own "high-end Louvre souvenir" and yes, we will love it.
Shop the Fragonard Neverfull here
By: Isabel de Carteret