Just for a change, Jeff Koons is making waves. This time, it’s not with a bunch of flowers (see Jeff Koons Unveils Sculpture Gifted to Paris) but with his collection of bags designed for Louis Vuitton. Commissioned by Delphine Arnault, the artist followed in the footsteps of Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama to design a collection for the celebrated manufacturer of handbags. His line is called Masters and prints images of works by the great stars of art history (such as da Vinci, Fragonard, Rubens, Titian, Van Gogh) on Vuitton’s emblematic bags, complete with the names of the painters in large golden letters.
For the modest sum of $3200 (prices rise to 4000) you can take home Rubens’ Tiger Hunt on a bright blue backpack. Koons’ signature – a leather rabbit that resembles his famous inflatable installed at Versailles in 2009 – is hung from the zip slider. And alongside Louis Vuitton’s celebrated monogram, we see that of the artist. Inside, the bag contains a museum information sheet printed on leather offering a brief discussion on each work.
In the press, Koons made a parallel between his designs and his series of Gazing Balls in which shiny blue balls were printed with famous paintings. He explained to Vanity Fair that this was a new “metaphysical” work. To Le Figaro he described it as “a way to celebrate our time”.
As always with Jeff Koons, opinions are very clear-cut. In The Guardian Jonathan Jones proclaimed “unequivocal enthusiasm for great art in a language people in the 21st century understand”. Social networks, however, reacted differently, with many seeing this latest escapade as another exercise in kitsch by the world’s most expensive contemporary artist.