Louis Vuitton’s traveling exhibition 200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries, arriving in New York in October 2022 – originally conceived to celebrate the house’s bicentennial – sees 200 global creatives reinventing its iconic trunk and the world of art , fashion, design, architecture, beauty and more. After Asnières, France (at the historic home of the house’s founder), Singapore and Los Angeles, the exhibition lands at the former home of Barneys department store at 660 Madison Avenue, on the city’s Upper East Side. The latest version of the exhibition extends over three sprawling floors and demonstrates the sheer breadth of the exhibits – from the contribution of art director Willo Perron, whose “self-packing” suitcase is fully equipped with hydraulics, to that of collage artist Francesca Sorrenti, who created the The exhibition disguised hers with classic images of French art history and culture. Elsewhere, design luminary Gaetano Pesce’s deconstructed suitcase resembles a painted wooden coffin with red stenciled writing inside that reads, “Diversity is humanity’s treasure,” while Argentine weaver and textile artist Alexandra Kehayoglou’s hand-tufted tapestry evokes ancient landscapes . Many other visionaries, including Frank Gehry, Li Edelkoort, Es Devlin, Michel Gondry, Wayne McGregor, Pat McGrath and Urs Fischer, have also interpreted the iconic LV case.
In addition, on the light-flooded ninth floor, the former Barneys restaurant Freds – a cult lunch spot in Uptown – will be revived for a special pop-up until the end of 2022. The restaurant will feature special edition china and linens with the ‘Freds x Louis’ logo, along with a colorful array of crystal glassware in shades of purple, pink, yellow and turquoise. The menu features original Freds favorites like chopped chicken salad, a cone of fries and the groundbreaking Manhattan cocktail. On the ground floor, departing visitors can explore the pop-up gift shop, which stocks hard-to-find pieces like the Virgil Abloh-designed “Paint Can” shoulder bag from the men’s F/W 2022 runway show and a monogrammed suitcase that doubles as a carry-on speaker is used.
To celebrate the exhibition’s final iteration, we revisit an interview with Louis Vuitton’s Visual Image Director, Faye McLeod, from our October 2021 (W*264) issue.
Louis Vuitton exhibition 200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries
“We’re always trying to tell a story,” says Faye McLeod, visual image director at Louis Vuitton. “But when our founder turns 200 and not the brand, we really wanted to celebrate the man. We wanted to talk about this person who was born on August 4, 1821 in the village of Anchay [in France’s Jura region]and had the imagination and creativity to build this company at the age of just 33.’
Monsieur Vuitton’s now-iconic travel case was an innovation in its day: the canvas-clad waterproof case was miles ahead of its competitors, which featured curved lids to allow rain to drain and therefore could not be conveniently stacked. “He built a travel system that was more efficient and better suited to the industrial revolution of the time,” explains Ansel Thompson, art director at Louis Vuitton and McLeod’s right-hand man.
McLeod has a track record of conjuring mind-expanding magic for the home (she’s designed fantastic window displays with Olafur Eliasson and Frank Gehry, designed dancing lines of Yayoi Kusama-dotted mannequins, and even created a life-size steam train for the A/W 2012 show.) For Monsieur Vuitton’s 200th birthday, of course, she dreamed big. “When I’m stuck looking for an idea, I always go back to the mantra pinned to my wall,” she says of the A4 sheet, which read, “Louis Louis Louis, don’t you see how I see yours.” world amazed? ?’
This tribe became the focal point for a grand celebration. “We thought, why don’t we find 200 people to amaze us?” says McLeod. “We’ve tried to make it global and diverse, spanning age, gender and ethnicity, and embracing both emerging and established talent – a celebration of how creativity can come in all shapes, sizes and disciplines.” To aid in the immense task of compiling the names, McLeod and Thompson gathered input from across the company and also consulted Bernard Arnault’s regular art advisors, Hervé Mikaeloff and Virgil Abloh. Visionaries from the fields of creative industries, science, ecology and more were recruited. “It’s a real cross-section of the present,” says Thompson. Attendees include Es Devlin, Frank Gehry, Peter Marino, Cao Fei, Alex Israel, Michel Gondry, Li Edelkoort, Wayne McGregor, Pat McGrath, Urs Fischer, Gloria Steinem, Jaron Lanier, Drake and more.
The order? Reimagining Louis Vuitton’s iconic suitcase for today, using every available medium – as broad as AR, spoken word, performance, video, sound, sculpture and color. Each visionary received a block of poplar wood (the original wood from which the cases were made) in the approximate dimensions of the original travel case (50 x 50 x 100 cm). Some boxes even had to be quarantined upon arrival abroad due to the pandemic. “It was really important not to be looking back, but to celebrate the future,” Thompson says of the briefing, which he delivered 200 times to individual employees via video call.
“There’s a flying suitcase,” McLeod says of the work of Franky Zapata, an inventor she spotted on Instagram. ‘He flew it through the shop in Place Vendôme; it was as loud as a plane taking off!’ Artist Jean-Michel Othoniel created a “Trunk of Hope,” a stack of glass bricks blown in the Taj Mahal region of India, inspired by the piles of mud bricks found roadside in the region. “These amber stacks are waiting to be turned into houses. They are the dream that everyone has: to build their own house one day,” he says. Fashion designer Samuel Ross says its minimalist red metal structure, which includes the iconic LV Damier square, “signals through the lens of the craftsman Vuitton’s deeply rooted relationship with movement, engineering and technology”. Pierre Yovanovitch, who designed a multi-drawer console out of 27 smaller boxes, says his “interpretation of the suitcase is a ‘box of ideas’ that symbolizes the creative process”. The boxes are held in place by invisible magnets and can be stacked in a variety of ways to create storage space for a dressing room or kitchen. Flowers are central to artist Azuma Makoto’s work, and he transformed his tribe by wallpapering the exterior with packets of seeds. “Seeds ride on the winds, are carried on a bird, transcend borders and times,” he says. As for botanist Mark Spencer, he demanded to see LVMH’s published plans for future environmental stewardship before signing on: “We passed the test,” says McLeod. §