Louis Vuitton 2007 Takashi Murakami Neverfull Tote Bag
About the Item
Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami may be famous among collectors for his psychedelic flowers and chaotic cartoons, but artists likely know him as the theorist behind the contemporary art movement he calls “Superflat.”
Partially inspired by the Pop art of Andy Warhol, in which celebrity culture and mundane mass-produced items became the focus of bright and colorful works that both celebrated and criticized consumerism, Murakami’s Superflat encompasses painting, sculpture, digital design and more to present a subversive look at consumerism but is also an effort to blend fine art and lowbrow culture. A multifaceted and remarkably influential artist as well as a compulsive art collector, Murakami has collaborated with brands such as Louis Vuitton, while one of his most famous Superflat works is the teddy bear on the cover of the Graduation album by American rapper Kanye West.
In 1993 Murakami earned his Ph.D. from Tokyo University of the Arts, where he was trained in nihonga, a style of painting that originated in the late 19th century by artists who worked to preserve and promote the conventions and processes associated with traditional Japanese art. While practicing nihonga, Murakami began to realize that his beliefs didn’t align with the tradition, so his art subsequently took on a satirical feel that embodied a critique of the movement. Before long, his style took a drastic turn, embracing otaku, a rising postwar cultural phenomenon among Japan’s younger crowd who loved anime and manga. (Otaku is also integral to Superflat.)
This is when Murakami’s most well-known character, Mr. DOB, was born. This anime-inspired icon, which Americans might interpret as a cross between Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat given its pronounced ears and broad and menacing grin, was part of the artist’s endeavor to elevate the otaku subculture but also to target mass consumerism. While Murakami conceived of Mr. DOB years ahead of his 2000-era Superflat theory, there is much common ground between the two. Not unlike his other creations, Murakami’s Mr. DOB is equal parts erotic, disturbing and cartoonish — an incisive mockery of the mingling of commerce and fine art so prevalent in Japanese popular culture.
The story behind iconic luxury brand Louis Vuitton — best known for its esteemed handbags, crossbody bags, leather goods, ready-to-wear clothing and more — is one of craft and innovation in the worlds of fashion, jewelry and furniture.
The company’s modest origins can be traced back to when its founder, Louis Vuitton (1821–92), wishing to free himself from the conventional lifestyle in his provincial French city of Anchay as well as a difficult stepmother, left in the early 1830s to make a new life in Paris. The young Vuitton was 13 at the time and would need to travel on foot to get to the capital, which was hundreds of miles away. With stops along the way to make money so that he could forge ahead, the journey took a couple of years, but reward was close at hand.
When he arrived in Paris, Vuitton made a living with his hands. He toiled as a box maker and packer for more than a decade and built relationships with royals and members of the upper class while working for the empress of France, Eugenie de Montijo. In 1854, Vuitton launched his namesake company. The craftsman opened a humble workshop on rue Neuve des Capucines and advertised his services with a small poster that read: “Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions.”
Long before his brand would become known globally for its exemplary top-handle bags and stylish totes, Vuitton produced stackable and rectangular trunks. The most common trunks of the era were round, which weren’t ideal for toting and storing. In 1858, Vuitton debuted his lightweight, handcrafted canvas trunks, which were sturdy, rugged and equipped with convenient compartments. Travel’s popularity broadened in the late 19th century, and Vuitton’s trunks could easily be packed into train cars and ships — upright trunks meant hanging wardrobe storage that would allow his clients to transport their sophisticated garments without worry. Demand increased and the company grew. When Louis Vuitton died in 1892, control of the luxury house was passed onto his only son, Georges Vuitton.
In 1914, a Louis Vuitton store opened at 70 Champs-Élysées. The largest travel-goods store in the world at the time, it became the company’s flagship.
The Louis Vuitton brand embodies all the attributes of luxury, from the craftsmanship, exclusivity and relevance to heritage. It’s only appropriate that it boasts one of the most recognizable insignias — the imaginative interlocking of letters and fleurettes — in the fashion world. The famous LV monogram was first used in 1896 as part of an initiative by Georges to prevent counterfeiting of his coveted new line of travel trunks. It’s one of the earliest examples of fashion branding.
The LV monogram would soon appear on everything from bags and various fashion accessories to alligator-skin champagne cases, from stylish apparel and earrings to teddy bears and airplane models.
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