October 2014 saw the Louis Vuitton Foundation officially open to its awaiting world. The $143 million purpose-built centre sits comfortably next to the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris´s 16th arrondissement. Conceived by Frank Gehry, the construction aims to serve as both an art museum and cultural centre for the citizens of Paris and beyond which it has achieved to date with an unpredicted success. Whilst at Paris Fashion Week happening right now. Gracie Opulanza and I took some time out to explore this amazing building.
One year on and Louis Vuitton is yet again opening a second museum space but with slightly different credentials. ´La Galerie´ is a 6500 square foot private exhibition space which takes pride of place on the ancestral grounds of Louis Vuitton´s family estate in the northern suburb of Asnieres Sur Seine. The former original family home and workshop buildings still function here for the production of their most exclusive ready to order items. An intimate inauguration which was hosted by the brand´s ´current face´ Michelle Williams showcased this deferential construction with fashion Professor Judith Clark acting as host, allowing its guests an intimate tour through its myriad of spaces with drinks and canapes on hand.
We wanted it to be perceived very much as a gallery intervention, it’s like an installation reflecting on the idea of exhibiting the Vuitton archive. It’s intended to be kind of slightly disruptive in that way – Judith Clark
The formidable space is carried over two floors which act as a retrospective home to some 400 objects and documents selected from the personal Vuitton archive which totals 26,000 articles and 165,000 documents. There are also many curiosities from the Vuitton families’ personal collection such as a pair of 17th-century Venetian women´s platform shoes and a travel trunk from the courtier Paul Poiret.
La Galerie – Curiosities From Various Centuries
“Everything about this exhibition is in a way against unidirectional chronology, but instead around a kind of restless interpretation of the absolutely huge number of objects that they have,” Judith quoted in accordance with the companies philosophy. Here, all the lines and corners within the space have been carefully considered. An inspiration from a small interlocking Pateki puzzle (originally designed by Gaston Louis Vuitton in 1930´s) gave inspiration for the marquetry and structure of the poplar display cabinets which surround the experience. “I kind of thought, Ok, let’s build a Pateki where the walls never quite match, they never quite sit and so the tension between pieces is always there,” she described. All the bases, walls and details of the units are inlaid with marquetry designs that hint at calligraphic notions. “It’s the idea of using the material of the poplar that was always brought in for the trunks but morphing it into shapes associated with design. And so instead of telling a story of savoir-faire, showing it,”
Poplar Lined Contemporary Interiors
The main ground floor space pays homage to a comprehensive selection of original trunks and toiletry sets, which sit juxtaposed next to product brochures, modern Vuitton correspondence and more current collection designs such as a bag designed last year by artist Cindy Sherman. “I think people underestimate how the material was generated knowingly by them and how imaginative they were in terms of playing with the new shapes associated with travel, and so there’s a kind of wit,” said Clark, drawing attention to her favourite exhibit, a parchment full of rough, playful sketches from the early 1900´s which was softly lit and framed by the pale wood.
A Retrospective Of The Famous Louis Vuitton Trunk
The interior massing and space control of the museum conveys a spirit of drama. Its imposing arches formed of poplar span dramatically across the heritage laden space. On one side, there is a Keepall bag from 1930 that belonged to Gaston-Louis Vuitton. Then, next to it a Bowling Vanity Tuffetage bag from creative director Nicolas Ghesquière’s autumn 2014 show.
It’s about fashion as fashion. It’s fashion as collaboration, and its fashion as the muses and owners and wearers associated with the luggage, so at a certain point, you’re kind of personifying it – Judith Clark
Peppered throughout the collection are clothing contributions from Louis Vuitton’s current and past creative directors; Nicolas Ghesquiere, Kim Jones and Marc Jacobs – in addition to period offerings from Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Dior and Madeleine Vionnet, acting as a snapshot through the houses various era´s. Towards the side of the foundation, a small scale model of the building is held up by a mannequin clad in Ghesquière’s recent designs, with film footage wrapped around the perimeter of it, paying tribute to the house’s history of collaborating with artists such as Richard Prince and Daniel Buren. “It’s about fashion as fashion. It’s fashion as collaboration, and it’s fashion as the muses and owners and wearers associated with the luggage, so at a certain point, you’re kind of personifying it,” Clark explained. It is clear that even though Vuitton remains essentially about the trunks, there is a kind of endurance to the dialogue between fashion and the house as well as the importance of the luggage.
Historical Fashion Contributions
Several pieces in the collection are easily identifiable from the 2012 Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibition held at Les Arts Decoratifs, which Judith attempted to look at with fresh eyes before affirming “I work predominantly as an academic. I think that was important to them, to have an outsider’s view, someone who could come in, research the archive and work slightly more experimentally around it,”
One of the instigations for having something more perpetual and conclusive was thanks to the original site. ¨People come here to see the Maison de Famille and the atelier. They kind of fall in love with the idea that this is the heart of the company and where all the special designs are made. It’s giving customers the context of the brand’s history and dedication to quality when they come and request their special commission. This is what they’re participating in, they are helping to write the current and future history of the brand for the next generation.”