Louis Vuitton Taps Jeff Koons to Put the World’s Most Obvious Art References on Handbags

It's a step up, price wise, from his previous team-up with H&M.

Jeff Koons's
Jeff Koons's "Masters"S Speedy 30 bag for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

This evening, the Louvre will be the venue for a star-studded event to unveil the latest collaboration between French fashion label Louis Vuitton and tabloid-darling art-star Jeff Koons. In a 51-piece capsule collection, set to go on sale at select LV boutiques across the world, Koons has used his 2015 “Gazing Ball” series as the jumping off point for a line of handbags and other small leather goods emblazoned with great works of Old Master art, under the title “Masters.

In the past, Louis Vuitton has often tapped contemporary artists including Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, and Jake and Dinos Chapman, to lend a bit of cultural legitimacy and artistic panache to its classic monograms. The Koons/LVMH project, which has been at least a year in the making and shrouded under a veil of secrecy, was reportedly orchestrated by Delphine Arnault, daughter of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault.

Koons himself is no stranger to the intersection of art and commerce. In 2013 his “Balloon Dog” set the current record for price at auction by a living artist at $58.4 million. The next year, to coincide with his Whitney Museum retrospective, he created a limited-edition handbag for fast fashion outlet H&M, which sold for about $50. “I want my work to be accessible to people,” he said at the time.

According to an extensive interview about the new bags in the New York Times, Koons sees them as “a continuation of my effort to erase the hierarchy attached to fine art and old masters.” While the democratization of artwork is an admirable goal, the LVMH “Masters” are a far cry from his H&M price point: $3,000 per bag.

Jeff Koons's Van Gogh bag for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

Jeff Koons’s Van Gogh bag for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

The purses, ranging in style from the tootsie-roll shaped “Speedy 30” to the “Neverfull” shoulder bag, are also festooned with the appropriated artists’ names in metal letters, lest anyone wonder “who you were wearing.” Koons received the blessing of museums which generously offered access to high-resolution, record-quality images for the bag project.

The artworks that Koons has chosen to emblazon on the bags are not exactly obscure, under-appreciated artists or works (Koons is personally a collector of the Old Masters). Indeed, one bag features Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa, pretty much the single least obscure possible choice.

Perhaps the most risque work is rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s Girl Playing With Her Dog, showing a young woman frolicking in bed with her pet dog, its tail strategically placed over her nether regions.

Jeff Koons's Fragonard bag for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

Jeff Koons’s Fragonard bag for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

The question for the style-minded observer is why use this particular set of works, most of which have already been emblazoned onto everything from coffee mugs to silk scarves (not to mention reusable totes and sturdy satchels). Early reactions have compared the Koons “Masters” hold-alls to those on sale at a museum gift-shop.

The bags certainly speak to the American artist’s reputation for self-branding. He has been afforded the honor of fashioning a version of the intertwined “LV” logo to accommodate his own initials. Each of the “Masters” bags comes with a dangling leather bunny in tribute to his “Balloon Rabbit” works.

Jeff Koons bag charm for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

Jeff Koons bag charm for Louis Vuitton. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton.

Should someone wish to forgo the bag itself, the key-chain sized creatures are available for a mere $525.


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