Grace Harlow, MA
Associate Fine Art Appraiser
The Louis Vuitton (LV) exhibition Volez, Voguez, Voyagez, or “Fly, Sail, Travel,” is an engaging retelling of the brand’s one hundred and sixty-year-old history and introduces visitors to the founders, artists, and designers who created the brand and who are bringing Louis Vuitton into the future. Curated by Olivier Saillard of the Musée Galliera in Paris and designed by Canadian opera director Robert Carsen, the exhibition presents objects and documents from Louis Vuitton’s as well as other archives, both public and private.
Volez, Voguez, Voyagez is a refreshing example of a brand-led exhibition that does not fall victim to pitfalls common to this genre. Other shows tend to lack narrative diversity, and themes are communicated exclusively through the perspective of the brand, which is expected and frankly uninspiring. Brand-led shows often focus on mythology and taxonomy, where objects are displayed within set categories and sections---women’s wear, accessories, menswear etc.---a structure that often falls flat and fails to make an impact.
The LV exhibition avoids these clichés and presents a thoughtfully designed space with measured narratives running throughout. Saillard, an expert curator of fashion exhibitions, has cleverly positioned the stars---LV trunks and bags---to act in the show as they do in real life, as accessories and symbols of exciting, luxurious lifestyles. A memorable room houses a replica train carriage, à la the Orient Express, with scenery flashing by in flat-screen windows. Louis Vuitton cases and bags sit on baggage racks and along the floor. On the other side of the carriage are replica hotel stickers and baggage tags from the LV family collection. Thus, though the core of the exhibition traces the company’s history as one of the world’s great luggage brands, the objects included tell stories instead of merely being placed on display.
This narrative structure is the real centerpiece around which the exhibition is built. Volez, Voguez, Voyagez is an interesting meditation on the ongoing dialogue between the brand and the changing cultures and technologies of human travel.