Louis Vuitton’s traveling exhibit “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” finally arrives in New York City after stops in Paris’ Grand Palais, Tokyo and Seoul. The French fashion house’s unofficial tagline is “the art of travel,” so it’s only tting that it planned a travel-themed journey with multiple exhibition dates around the world. The expansive show takes up two floors of the former New York Stock Exchange and features Louis Vuitton monogrammed trunks, artist collaborations, articles and photos from the archives and more, all curated by historian Olivier Saillard.
The exhibition, which opened October 28, takes guests through the history of Louis Vuitton from 1854 to the present with a whimsical display in 10 chapters. The idea formed when Saillard was approached by Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH.
“The idea came from Bernard Arnault himself, who expressed to me his wish to organize a major retrospective at the Grand Palais dedicated
to the house of Louis Vuitton,” says Saillard. “He suggested that I might like to curate it and gave me carte blanche. I was very attracted to the idea, especially as I had reached a point in my career of some 110 exhibitions about fashion. I was a little tired of dresses, and the idea of being able to work around the trunk, an almost architectural object, pleased me greatly.”
After six months of researching the archives, Saillard proposed a traditional exhibition that would give the public insight into the history of the house, beginning with founder Louis Vuitton, who left his parents’ home in the Jura region of France at age 13 to work as a trunk maker in Paris.
“I would like them to feel as if they’re watching a film, to have doubts about the reality of what they have seen,” Saillard explains. “Truth can often be stranger than action. If we wrote a screenplay today with a 13-year-old boy leaving his family to walk to Paris, people would say it was completely unrealistic.”
Saillard enlisted Robert Carsen as artistic director and set designer of the exhibit. “An exhibition should be like a journey in which the visitors want not only to learn but also to be inspired and touched,” says Carsen. “My challenge is not just to develop the right visual support for what the curator has chosen to present, but also to help him develop and transmit his ideas and thoughts. Olivier had already conceived the different chapters of the exhibition which have remained mostly the same, but I hope that we have succeeded in creating a journey through the world of Louis Vuitton that will allow the public to dream and be inspired, while also remaining precise in terms of the exhibition’s museography.”
Those who see the exhibit will surely get a better understanding of the history of Maison Louis Vuitton, while also witnessing the innovative transformation and risks the brand has taken. Connecting the modest past with the Louis Vuitton of tomorrow is ever-apparent in this gorgeous display.
The exhibit opens with the wood room showing the earliest trunks, including the rst trunk from 1886, and the start of monogramming at the house, which began in 1896.
“I wanted to recreate the feeling of a foreman’s o ce by constructing it entirely from panelled wood, so that one would be aware of the smell and the feel of that natural material,” Carsen explains.
There are three categories: automobiles, train travel and celebrities. For example, the automobile room contains a 1916 cobalt-blue monogram car trunk, as well as early advertisements from the brand, including an American Vogue ad from 1924. Other articles include awards that Vuitton won at various fairs throughout the world, as well as client cards from Hubert Givenchy, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.
Also on exhibit are never-before-seen objects and documents from the Louis Vuitton heritage archives and select articles from the Palais Galliera and the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. Leather goods collaborations with iconic artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Vivienne Westwood and Frank Gehry are another highlight as are famous out ts worn by celebrities.
“In the section devoted to celebrity clients such as Greta Garbo or Lauren Bacall, I wanted a very glamorous 1930s feel, with the diamond-shaped padding and chromed brass tacks [the malletage] that exist inside a Vuitton trunk,” Carsen says.
Saillard and Carsen’s collaboration was bound to be a perfect match. The latter’s whimsical set design brought Saillard’s poignant performance art to life by nding ways to infuse the static nature of these articles with a sense of life and joy. The two created the idea of always moving or always dreaming, hence the title Volez, Voguez, Voyagez.
Head to 86 Trinity Place, New York to see the exhibit through January 7, 2018. Admission is free.