Whatever your opinion on his particular brand of kitsch, few can argue that Jeff Koons is one of the most influential contemporary artists working today, with at least one record auction price for a work by a living artist. It’s fitting that, for his second collection for Louis Vuitton, he turns his attention to iconic works by the masters. The next chapter in the Louis Vuitton Masters series will be available worldwide on 27 October, 2017.
The new set of paintings for Louis Vuitton relates to Koons’ connections to six art masters: François Boucher, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Nicolas Poussin and J.m.W. Turner. ‘The Gazing Ball series is a body of work that deals with humanism,’ says Koons. ‘The different images I work with for my Gazing Ball paintings, and therefore made into the Masters Collection with Louis Vuitton, are works that represent my artistic DNA.’
Boucher’s Reclining Girl (1752) is a painting Koons and his family visit often in the old Pinakothek in Munich. ‘It always strikes me as one of the most sensual images ever painted,’ he says. Gauguin’s Delightful Land (1892) is a powerful image that features a profound representation of Eve and, at the same time, depicts the artist’s personal iconography through its use of symbolism and colour. Manet has always been one of the most important artists to Koons, who explains that ‘To work with the image of Luncheon on the Grass (1863) gave me the opportunity to emphasise the importance of artists giving it up to each other. With [this work], Manet is referencing Titian’s Pastoral Concert, as well as Raymond’s engraving The Judgement of Paris, which was based on a drawing by Raphael. It’s a history of humanism, of artists enjoying each other’s work and learning to find their way through each other.’
For Monet, Koons worked with Water Lilies (1916), an image that manages to appear both concrete and ephemeral. Poussin’s The Triumph of Pan (1636) is a painting rich in history. ‘It is making reference to the power of nature, antique art and mythology. This painting from the National Gallery in London has always been one of my favourite Poussin’s,’ says Koons. The final piece paid tribute to in the Masters collection is Turner’s Ancient Rome (1839) which, according to Koons, ‘is one of the most seductive, joyous images that I know of’.
As with the first chapter of the Masters series, Koons has reconfigured the famous Louis Vuitton monogram to bear his initials – a radical departure for the fashion house, which has never previously allowed its iconic pattern to be reshaped. Each bag carries a tag in the shape of the inflatable rabbit, an enduring motif in Koons’ work throughout his 40-year career, while a biography and portrait of the master whose work has been references is featured on the inside of the bag.
Just as the Gazing Ball paintings placed Koons within the lineage of art history, so this collaboration situates the artist within the heritage of Louis Vuitton itself, demonstrating the power of the artistic gesture to connect the present day with a shared cultural history.
Discover more at louisvuitton.com.