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Mona Lisa on the go

American contemporary artist Jeff Koons pays tribute to Da Vinci, Van Gogh and other masters with his collection for Louis Vuitton

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo: Courtesy Melanie + Ramon
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo: Courtesy Melanie + Ramon

Global luxury house Louis Vuitton, in collaboration with the iconic American contemporary artist Jeff Koons, recently launched a collection of bags and accessories at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The collection, titled Masters: A Collaboration With Jeff Koons, includes leather goods (clutches, backpacks, keepalls, etc.) and accessories (key chains, scarves).

Louis Vuitton has a rich history of collaborations with some of the most influential contemporary artists, such as Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama, Stephen Sprouse, Cindy Sherman and James Turrell.

Here are four things you should know about the Masters collection.

The Tiger Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens. Photo: Courtesy Melanie + Ramon

A tale of five masters

The collection features five iconic paintings—A Wheatfield With Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh, Girl With Dog by Fragonard, The Tiger Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens, Mars, Venus, And Cupid by Titian and Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci—in high-definition on some of LV’s classic bags. The bags are adorned with gold or silver floral shapes, reflective metallic letters and coloured trimmings.

Metallic letters

The name of the artists is emblazoned in big shiny letters. “Having the names of the artists in reflective type is in a way performing a function like the gazing ball in the Gazing Ball paintings," Koons says. “But there’s also a reflective process about the person being interlinked with the bag. To walk around with something that shows you really believe in giving it up to things outside yourself—it’s another form of reflectivity."

The rabbit

The rabbit on the bags is a symbolic reference to Koons, who is now universally associated with balloon animals rendered in stainless steel, including his 40-inch stainless-steel sculpture, Rabbit, from 1986.

If Rabbit doesn’t ring a bell, Balloon Dog certainly will. In 2013, Christie’s auctioned the 10ft-tall neon orange stainless-steel sculpture by Koons for $58.4 million (around Rs374 crore now), a world record for a work by a living artist.

“I think it (the rabbit) is a symbol of generosity. It can have many different meanings. To one person it can be a symbol of the Playboy bunny; to another, a symbol of resurrection. I chose to use the rabbit because I think it’s one of the most iconic images that I’ve created," says Koons. “And I wanted to have something that could show immediately, ‘This is a Jeff Koons bag; Jeff created this bag.’ But I did not want to be heavy-handed. I would think that it represents me philosophically."

The initials

Koons has reconfigured the Louis Vuitton monogram to bear his initials on the bags. It is a radical first for the French luxury house; never before has an artist reshaped the famous LV pattern to create his own initials.

The collection, available across all LV stores, ranges from $585 for bag charms to $4,000 for keepalls.

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