27 October 2015

Louis Vuitton gallery in Paris: opened in Sept 2015

The building of the Louis Vuitton Foundation, started in 2006, was to be an art museum and cultural centre designed by the architect Frank Gehry. The museum was funded by LVMH (the European multinational luxury goods combination of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) and was opened to the public in October 2014. Whether visitors like the ultra modern building in the Bois de Boulogne or not, it makes a big statement. The 11 galleries are clearly an important part of LVMH’s promotion of modern art and culture.

This year Louis Vuitton Company has just opened another private museum, La Galerie. But unlike the huge Louis Vuitton Foundation in the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris, La Galerie was est­ablished in Asnières-sur-Seine, on the NE edge of Paris. Le Vuitton Fondation and La Vuitton Galerie could not be more different.

La Galerie, 
Asnières-sur-Seine Paris
family home, show rooms and museum

As I have described in earlier posts, Louis Vuitton moved the heart of his business from Paris where it opened for business in 1854 to Asnières in 1859; undoubtedly he was focusing his eye on expanding the business. It was a wise move. That decade became im­portant in the Company’s success story because they partic­ipated in the fabulous Paris World Fair of 1867 and won the first internat­ional medal for excellence. If Vuitton had not burst onto the scene at a time of increasing luxury travel and of gorgeous World Fairs, would he have been as successful as he in fact became?

It always pays for the founding member of a business to have talented children and grandchildren who can take it over and make it grow. When Louis Vuitton died in 1892, the company's management passed to his son Georges. Within one year of taking over from dad, Georges Vuitton began a campaign to build the company into a worldwide corporation, exhibiting the company's products at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.

trunk display
La Galerie,  Asnières

The new gallery in Asnières, which opened in September 2015, is based around the old family home which is said to be decorated in a nature-infused Art Nouveau style. Visitors can tour the home and gorgeous garden in conjuction with their visit to the museum.

La Galerie also includes the workshops where the Vuittons produced exclusive made-to-order items. Thus the historic site is a family home, cradle of craftsmanship, source of inspiration and creativity, museum and archive, all at the same time. Its ongoing mission is to reveal the treasures that fashioned (pun intended) Louis Vuitton’s extraordinary fortune. So the architect­ural context could not have been more apt.

The exhibition was curated by the Australian fashion scholar Judith Clark and includes samples of every Vuitton item from the family’s arch­ives: 26,000 objects and 165,000 documents. The ground floor houses a selection of trunks and toiletry kits, alongside period product bro­chures, Vuitton correspondence and monogram designs. The designs of the hand-built box trunks were carefully considered, and it shows! They had to be carried on horse drawn carriages en route to the port and then had to transferred by valets into luxury ocean cruise­ship cabins. Space and stability were the two important criteria.

Three generations of Vuitton men
Son Georges (left), Louis (centre) and grandson Gaston Louis  (right)
La Galerie,  Asnières

My personal favourites amongst the exhibition displays would have to be the stunning clothes from couturiers Paul Poiret, Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet and even Christian Dior. Clark included the fashion items because she felt there had long been a dialogue between fashion and Vuitton, even though the show remained essentially about the trunks.

I imagine the objects in the exhibition will change over time since archivists are constantly restoring Louis Vuitton objects bought from auction houses and from private owners. Only one part of the Vuitton history has remained difficult to reassemble – fire during the Paris Commune Revolution of 1871 destroyed all the customer records up to that date.

Louis Vuitton Foundation
Bois de Boulogne, Paris
art museum and cultural centre


Parnassus said...

Hello Hels, I love that impressive photo of all the antique luggage. When I was starting to collect, leather trunks and suitcases very very cheap, often one dollar or less (even free when it was being thrown out). I recall a junk store that had a whole room filled with old leather luggage, and now I'll bet that at least some of it was by good makers. I was actually tempted once or twice, but leather suitcases are heavy and take up a lot of space.

We Travel said...

I saw the Louis Vuitton Foundation built by Frank Gehry. The architecture and the views were great but the collection was not my cup of tea at all.

Hels said...


you are a man after my own heart. I have never heard of anyone else being interested in the history of luxury travel goods (and not so luxurious travel goods). When I saw the Louis Vuitton shoe trunk, men's and women's hat boxes, the wardrobe trunk and his cigar case, I knew I was in love.

Part of the fascination is in the objects themselves. The rest is about evoking a sense of luxury train or ship travel.

Hels said...

We Travel

Thank you for commenting.. I have heard a number of people say that. The Guardian said the Fondation was successfully challenged by local groups dedicated to protecting the Bois, and the project was stopped by the relevant tribunal. Eventually a special law was passed by the Assemblée Nationale that the Fondation was in the national interest and a major work of art for the whole world, which allowed it to proceed.

I presume they meant that the architecture itself was the major work of art, not the collected objects inside.

artnetnews said...

The collection of the Russian textile merchant Sergei Shchukin, described as one of the world's finest collections of modern art, will go on view outside of Russia for the first time in nearly 100 years. The wealthy businessman/arts patron amassed over 250 works of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces including 50 Picassos, 38 works by Matisse, 13 Monets, eight Cezannes and four Van Goghs. However in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in October 1917, Shchukin's collection was expropriated by the state and distributed among museums in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris will be showing the collection from 20th Oct 2016 -20th Feb 2017.

Hels said...


Thank you. It seems appropriate that one of the world's biggest collections of impressionist and post-impressionist art should be brought together and exhibited back in France. Especially since it will be part of the official program of the France-Russia Year of Cultural Tourism 2016-2017.

But I wonder why the State Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art selected, of all galleries in France, the Louis Vuitton Foundation to stage its spectacular event. Because the Gehry architecture is so amazing?