Louis Vuitton exhibit captures 200 years of legacy

The one-of-a-kind exhibit, on display at 660 Madison Ave. from Oct. 14 to Dec. 31, 2022, showcases the unique works of visionaries and artists, and offers a tribute to the designer.

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Sara Sharma

Celebrating 200 years of Louis Vuitton. (Sara Sharma for WSN)

Sara Sharma, Staff Writer

It started with a trunk that revolutionized the artisanal and travel industry. It was a trunk that wasn’t just waterproof but made stacking possible through its unique flat-topped wax-coated design. Louis Vuitton’s paragon — his custom-made travel trunks — kick-started his fashion empire.

In an effort to commemorate the designer Vuitton’s bicentennial birthday, the eponymous brand asked visionaries, decorators, artists and designers from all over the world to personalize trunks similar in dimension to Vuitton’s original 1850s design. The trunks each have barcodes assigned to them for people to scan, and read up on the artist and how their creation connects to the Louis Vuitton legacy. 

“200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries: The Exhibition,” is a beautifully created landscape of trunks spanning three floors with interactive and indulgent experiences for every fashion, culture and art aficionado. Upon entering, you’re embraced by an explosion of Louis Vuitton’s signature colors and patterns — like bursts of orange and the iconic tan-brown color with his signature monogram — in a mirage of posters, trunks and murals.

As you walk through the opening hallway, mounds of trucks are artistically and strategically stacked next to and on top of one another. Artists such as Raphael Tanghal, a Brooklyn-based illustrator, have taken inspiration from Vuitton’s life and their own lives. Tanghal’s trunk boasts a wonderfully intricate serpentine path represented by the body of a snake that he relates to the “long twisting path of Monsieur Louis’ journey from Anhay.” As a tribute to Vuitton, Tanghal writes in his description that he chose this design as “Monsieur Louis’ birth coincides with the Year of the Snake on the Chinese lunar calendar.”

While the exhibition is a tribute to Vuitton, it also gives many artists and designers a larger platform to exhibit their work. Briy Gilgeous, a staff member, said that one of her favorite pieces was by Frank Gehry — an architect who worked with Vuitton and designed the Louis Vuitton Maison Seoul.

“You’re looking at his rendition of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tea party, but as Louis Vuitton’s birthday party,” Gilgeous said. “You can see a few different characters here. Alice is in purple, and Mr. Louis Vuitton in white.” 

An object placed in an exhibition that has a wooden framework with several paper-folded figures placed in it. There are thin silver meshes around the framework.
(Sara Sharma for WSN)

As you head up to the remaining floors, staff members guide you through interactive exhibits, including massive neon pink rooms, CGI-themed rooms and balloon-filled rooms with the LV monogram plastered all over. While the monogram is an iconic cornerstone of the brand, it wasn’t actually created by Vuitton himself. It was his son who created the monogram as a tribute to Vuitton. The monogram is a status symbol in itself, a compelling feature of the brand that brings in loyal customers. On the ground floor of the exhibit, you’ll find a pop-up store selling arrays of luxury goods ranging from wallets to bags to personalized notebooks. 

The exhibit encapsulates the creative work of Vuitton, inviting attendees to understand the vast possibilities something as simple as a trunk can contain. Through showcasing the creative work of Vuitton and growing artists, the exhibit is not just an homage to Vuitton and his contributions to the fine atelier, but also a reminder of how fashion and innovation continue to prosper, advance and inspire.

Contact Sara Sharma at [email protected]