If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of art by one of the old masters — da Vinci or Rubens, for instance — you finally have a chance. Sort of. Louis Vuitton has collaborated with artist Jeff Koons on a line of handbags featuring some of art history’s most famous works, with a decidedly modern twist.
The collab collection, available in select stores only beginning April 28th, features classic LV handbags — including carryall and backpack styles — covered all over in Koons’ reproductions of classic paintings, including da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” Rubens’ “Tiger Hunt,” and Fragonard’s “Girl With a Dog,” and topped off with the original artist’s name in a shiny, metallic type.
The result feels somewhere between a kitschy interpretation of hip-hop streetwear and a mass-produced museum keepsake, but we have no doubt these bags will fly off the shelves. The buzz around LV’s collab with Supreme is massive, after all, so we know there’s a market for streetwear-style Louis leather goods.
The 51-piece collection is inspired by Koons’ recent show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, called “Gazing Ball.” For that series, Koons meticulously repainted master works in oil on canvas, then affixed a shelf to the paintings and topped it with a reflective blue ball designed to include the viewer in the work.
“This experience is about you,” Koons told the Guardian in an interview about the “Gazing Ball” paintings. “Your desires, your interests, your participation, your relationship with this image.” He added that the show is “not about being a copy, this is about this union, the concept of participating. Everybody’s in this dialogue of sharing enjoyment and pleasure.”
Like the paintings, the bags invite consumers to engage with the old masters in a new context, reinterpreting the classics in a form that could not be more modern.
The house of Louis Vuitton, for its part, has collaborated with Stella McCartney and H&M in the past, so a pop collection of this kind comes as no surprise. And while the Masters LV x Koons collection comes at a substantial cost — from $585 for a keychain (!) to $4,000 for a large carryall, with most bags in the $1,000 to $3,000 price range — those prices pale in comparison to the cost of a Koons original (one of his sculptures sold for $58 million at auction, the highest price ever fetched at auction for a work by a living artist).
As for those who can’t afford an LV x Koons bag? “Well, they can walk by the windows of Louis Vuitton and enjoy them,” Koons told The New York Times. “I hope people understand my ideas. I hope they embrace them as a continuation of my effort to erase the hierarchy attached to fine art and old masters.”
With 40 artists in the “Gazing Ball” series, Louis Vuitton’s reps have suggested there’s an opportunity for more collaboration with Koons. So start saving your pennies now if you want one of these pieces.