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Eric Feigenbaum

New York: The Last Port-of-Call for the “Louis Vuitton: 200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries” Exhibition

The luxury brand marks the bicentennial birthday of its founder with creativity and collaboration

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Photography: Eric Feigenbaum, New York

TO CELEBRATE THE vibrant history of the Louis Vuitton label and the genius of its namesake founder, the purveyor of high-end leather goods, monogram handbags, and world-renowned steamer trunks, is presenting an immersive discovery of art and imagination at its “200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries” exhibition. New York completes the travel itinerary of the acclaimed exhibition, wowing and inspiring visitors from Asnières, France (at the historic Louis Vuitton family house) to Singapore, Los Angeles, and now its final destination, the former Barneys New York location on Madison Avenue in New York City.

The exhibition is a collaborative showcase featuring the work from a roster of creatives such as Franky Zapata, Willo Perron, Francesca Sorrenti, Peter Marino and Jean Lavaliere, and the 200 customized trunks that commemorate the Louis Vuitton story. Each trunk is reimagined and personalized through unique mixed media applications from paint on canvas and video to sculpture, collage and light. The wide array of interpretations references the many cultural touchpoints of the Louis Vuitton experience such as art, design, fashion, architecture and, of course, travel.

Cleverly curated, the journey begins with a powerful welcoming statement as visitors are drawn through a blackened hallway punctuated by a series of repeating illuminated squares that draw the eye and the viewer toward a dramatic graphic that simply reads “LOUIS.”

The visitor then enters a dimly lit room featuring a rapid succession of scrolling inspirational words and thoughts. Messages such as “imagination, explore, vessel, reflection, desire, and the magic of creation” flash quickly across a blackened screen. Turning the corner, visitors enter a room emblazoned with a grand collage saluting 200 years of Louis Vuitton ingenuity. Francesca Sorrenti, the Brooklyn-born photographer, felt that the best homage to LV was to incorporate French lifestyle art, history and travel, through the medium of college as she decorated her one-of-a-kind trunk.

The highlight of the next room is the felt paintings of artist Zhang Yunyao. The Shanghai-based painter gravitates toward non-traditional mediums and surfaces such as paint on felt. Two large paintings present a new visual experience in image creation and scale. The colors and textures of the composition were inspired by the nuances of the vibrant history of Louis Vuitton.

Splashes of color and light then greet the visitor as they enter a larger room clad with raw wood flooring and walls referencing the early shipping trunks and crates. An eclectic mix of tributes to Monsieur Vuitton and interpretations of his iconic trunk fill the room with objects and allusions to the Louis Vuitton mystique, such as a violin case, colorful birds, travel documents, baggage claim tickets and destination stickers.

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Photography: Eric Feigenbaum, New York

Spanning three floors, an escalator leads visitors to level two of the exhibition where a room with pinkish-orange walls and a black-and-white carpeted checkerboard floor, highlight the work of  Franky Zapata and his “flying trunk.” (An inventor, Zapata decided to make his trunk fly through the air rather than decorate it, and the resultant display is captivating.)

One of the most popular rooms, offering multi-angled opportunities for Instagrammable moments features the work of Robert Moy and his Brooklyn Balloon Company. Moy twists, turns and shapes ordinary balloons into works of art. The room, emblazoned with balloons in a rainbow of color, frames Moy’s vessel-shaped sculpture constructed from122 inflated latex balloons. The artist then dripped 14 coats of epoxy on the creation and sanded and polished until a high gloss surface was achieved. The final step was to brush paint the sculpture.

Over the course of time, Louis Vuitton and Frank Gehry established a long-standing relationship. With Gehry’s work, including the Foundation Louis Vuitton and Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul, it seemed natural that the internationally acclaimed architect would contribute to the “200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries” exhibition. Gehry’s reimagined trunk is appropriately celebrated in its own room. Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the room and the trunk are simply titled, ‘Tea Party for Louis.”

An Escalator to the third floor welcomes visitors into a hot pink room, a nod to counterculture style and Marc Jacobs tribute to both Louis Vuitton and Stephen Spouse. The trunk creation references Sprouse’s legendary collectible graffiti bag.

One of the last exhibits along the journey was created by Benji B, currently the music and sound director for Louis Vuitton Men’s. A lover of all things music, his career includes work as a radio broadcaster, a disc jockey, a record producer and musical director. For the exhibition, the impresario created a musical atelier in the form of a padded sound studio to play 200 curated songs that best represent the spirit of the Louis Vuitton brand.

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The call to artists was a global outreach across multi-disciplinary fields of influencers, both established and emerging. From painters and sculptors to poets, scientists, activists, musicians and architects, all were challenged to reimagine a simple block of poplar wood in the approximate dimensions of the original Louis Vuitton travel case. The resultant design solutions provided an artistic journey in discovery for creators and viewers alike, all in tribute to the remarkable career and cultural influence of Monsieur Vuitton. The exhibition will be open to the public through Dec. 31, 2022.

Eric Feigenbaum is a recognized leader in the visual merchandising and store design industries with both domestic and international design experience. He served as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Store, a division of Federated Department Stores, from 1986 to 1995. After Stern’s, he assumed the position of director of visual merchandising for WalkerGroup/CNI, an architectural design firm in New York City. Feigenbaum was also an adjunct professor of Store Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and formerly served as the chair of the Visual Merchandising Department at LIM College (New York) from 2000 to 2015. In addition to being the New York Editor of VMSD magazine, Eric is also a founding member of PAVE (A Partnership for Planning and Visual Education). Currently, he is also president and director of creative services for his own retail design company, Embrace Design.

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