So I want to take a minute to talk about the second coming of the Jeff Koons x Louis Vuitton collaboration. No it’s not menswear, but as an artist and a person with working eyes, I have thoughts on the matter.
I’m seriously in two minds about the whole thing. On one hand, I’m a long-time fan of Louis Vuitton and their collaborations (see my review of their Supreme collab) and I really like Jeff Koons’ work and aesthetic as an artist on the cutting edge of modern art. But on the other… I think most of the pieces are fugly. And that they’re downplaying the importance of the art Koons has superimposed on the bags. My thoughts aside though, I can tell that this collaboration is going to be financially and pop culturally important for both parties involved.
First off, Jeff Koons. Outside of the art and media worlds, you mightn’t know who this man is, but he’s is a towering figure of an artist, known for his controversial and very expensive pieces and constant use of the media to expand his audience. Koons rose to prominence in the 80’s with his conceptual sculpture, especially his famous Inflatable Series of flowers and rabbits made of highly polished metal that resemble balloon art. They’re my favourite pieces of his… I even have a little blue balloon dog (from a 1990’s era collection). He works out of a NY state studio that produces his works practically on an assembly line basis, with endless assistants and craftsmen. It kind of resembles Andy Warhol’s legendary Factory studios- but without the superstar filled parties and open drug use. Overall, his oeuvre is all bright, in your face conversation pieces that comment on and chronicle modern life, pop culture and celebrity. He’s one of the bestselling, most expensive artists in history and has an army of collectors who pay top dollar for his work (his Balloon Dog “Yellow” broke records with its 2013, $54 million sale).
What I’m saying is that Jeff Koons is a BIG deal. Everything he does is fully followed by the media and everything he touches makes money. For another media juggernaut like the LVMH Group, collaborating with him just makes sense.
My major problem is that I’m not a fan of sensationalising historically important, immensely valuable art that I love in this way. Yes it’s a stuck up stance and yes this is bringing fine art exposure to many folks who might not otherwise know or care about it, but I don’t care. These paintings are important works that helped set the foundation of modern art and design. I don’t think they need to be printed under the Vuitton label and end up on a basic cable reality cast member’s arm or as a prop for some video ho. I know my horse is high and I’m probably looking dumb on top it, but that’s the first thing I thought when I saw the early images from the collection release. Maybe I’m thinking too much into the whole thing, but I think Titian would roll in his grave if he knew where his art had reached. Poor Titian.
Then we get back to the fact that they’re fugly. True, you get classic Vuitton silhouettes and impeccable craftsmanship with each piece, but damn… they didn’t stop making the other lines you know. They’re a heritage label for a reason and are overflowing with beautiful things. Get an attractive bag. Get two. The Damier Graphite pattern goes with everything- I have a carryall and it tres much does. Just… look, if you’re spending your money, get something that you can use all the time with anything that’s anywhere appropriate. To me, a pastiche looking print of a portion of a painting stuck on a bag doesn’t fulfil those criteria. You remember when Kanye West had an artist paint a nightmare on an Hermes bag for Kim to carry around? Well this is the brand approved version and you’ll look almost as bad as that.
The only one I grudgingly like is the Van Gogh print of his “Wheatfield with Cypress”, and only because it looks like an actual pattern on the bags. And the colours are stunning.
Regardless of my ranting, this collaboration is and will continue to be important. Profits on the collection are up and many lines have sold out or are close to selling out. If you add Jeff Koons’ fans to Louis Vuitton’s general customer base along with collaboration collectors all trying their hardest to get the full set, it’s not hard to see why. Culture wise, I don’t think it’s as design or historically significant as other Vuitton collabs (see the Murakami, Yayoi Kusama or even the Supreme examples), but solely because they were truly groundbreaking in the the artists that the brand worked with and in context with the eras that these collabs came about. In this current strive for inclusiveness of artists from non-traditional regions, backgrounds and expressions in many parts of modern culture, I’d say Yayoi Kusama and street label Supreme working with traditional, heritage high fashion were the vanguard collaborations. This Koons work comes close and is definitely a standout example of pop culture/ fashion fusion, but I think it was facilitated by the formers.
And with that, let me retreat to my corner before a Koons fan comes for me. See you all soon.