Check out our site for more fashion news! Is a Louis Vuitton handbag a work of art? A Bernard Arnault, head of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the largest global luxury goods, we'd like you to believe so.
LVMH recently opened an art gallery on the seventh floor of its new flagship store on the Champs Elysees. The inaugural exhibition showed works by Vanessa Beecroft, an American artist of fashion. One of the exhibits consist of large photographs of naked black and white women who formed the letters of Louis Vuitton. Another is a video of a living tableau nearly naked women as if they were bags placed on the shelves of the store. Ms. Beecroft insists that "I'm not being used to sell bags, but to cleanse the conscience of a sophisticated brand that allows the emergence of a revolutionary intellectual content."
Yves Carcelle, CEO of Louis Vuitton, also downplayed the commercial aspects of the project. He says the idea is "to make contemporary art accessible to many people." But LVMH is also a clear commercial advantage in the contemporary art exhibitions taking place in the largest store of Vuitton and its new "Cultural Space Louis Vuitton".
For the hordes of Japanese tourists, Chinese and Russian sweep the Louis Vuitton bags, the aura of quality and exclusivity of the brand is still the big attraction. But there are marketers who believe that Europeans and Americans do not need an extra incentive, that is, the attempt to link the brand with the art. "They want an added experience, so the companies pay celebrities to talk about brands, fashion hire artists to rejuvenate the design or invest in contemporary art," says Claudia D'Arpizio, an expert on luxury goods Bain , a consulting firm in Rome.
Louis Vuitton is the most successful brand group LVMH and is responsible for about a quarter of the 14 billion euros (17 billion dollars) in annual revenues and nearly one third of the profits.
Mr. Arnault has never messed with Louis Vuitton since it took control of LVMH last 15 years, after one of the toughest battles in corporate history of France. Dismissed the directors who were not efficient and creative directors urged to revitalize the brand. In 1998 he hired Marc Jacobs, American designer known for his collections "grungy", which adapted quickly to the more sedate style of Vuitton. Tripled brand offering fashion adding to the traditional leather goods. In 2004 the company opened a huge store on Fifth Avenue in New York to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
The new store in Paris, which opened last year, is already a success. Between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors come each day, most of whom are tourists. It's a must-see Paris-just behind the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral. And he's taking big profits when many luxury goods firms are kept afloat only to satisfy the ego of its owners, says Antoine Colonna, luxury goods analyst at Merrill Lynch.
The art gallery will increase the flow of visitors to the Paris shop. And the link between art and luxury goods is likely to tighten even more. And its main rival LVMH - Richemont, Gucci and Prada are spending much of your budget to create a corporate image of cultural philanthropy. As the European museums are stripped of the inhibitions of sponsorship by companies, luxury brands have become funders of the best exhibitions like the recent "Klimt, Schiele, Moser, Kokoschka" in the Grand Palais, funded by LVMH, and the exhibition on view at the Pompidou Centre, sponsored by Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR), the holding of Gucci Group.
This month a retrospective of Pierre Bonnard backed by LVMH opened in Paris.
Louis Vuitton has worked with individual artists in the past. Robert Wilson, American designer and Ugo Rondinone of Switzerland designed the windows for the store. Mr. Jacobs collaborated with artists as Stephen Sprouse fashion, Julie and Takeshi Murakami Verhoevn to update the printed and the logo of the house. The bag designed by Murakami has been one of the bestsellers of all time.
But even Louis Vuitton treading carefully. The company has no plans to expose contemporary art outside the store in Paris. And at least one of the works of the Paris store will be on permanent exhibition: "Your Loss of Senses" by Olafur Eliasson, a very dark elevator that connects the shop upstairs and produces sensory deprivation. The elevator serves as a contrast to experience the abundance of the store. It is probably the most subversive work of art ever to be exhibited at Louis Vuitton.