By  on June 5, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — The Louis Vuitton store in Union Square here already has one of the hottest locations in retail at Stockton and Geary Streets, with Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, Maiden Lane boutiques and Post Street jewelers among its luxe neighbors.

The two-level, 15,000-square-foot Vuitton flagship has now gained another notch in status by being elevated to a Maison, a designation the company bestows when a major work of art is commissioned for a store.

With the installation of "Hothouse (Blue)" by Miami sculptor Teresita Fernández, the San Francisco Maison joins a handful of others, in Paris, Hong Kong's Landmark, Hong Kong Canton, Taipei in Taiwan and New York. "This store is clearly one of our jewels," said Louis Vuitton North America president and chief executive officer Daniel Lalonde.

LVMH has two other stores in San Francisco, across the street from the Union Square Maison in Neiman Marcus and three blocks away in Nordstrom — all tapping into the San Francisco metropolitan area's luxury market demographics.

San Francisco is ranked second in the nation in per capita income, next to the Stamford, Conn., metro area. Ranked third is California's Silicon Valley, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. There are two Vuitton stores in Silicon Valley, one in San Jose's Valley Fair Mall, and the other in Palo Alto's Stanford Mall, where there also is a Vuitton shop-in-store in the Neiman Marcus unit. Two years ago, the size of the San Francisco Vuitton store was almost doubled.

Lalonde declined to rank the Bay Area unit in terms of sales against the Paris-based company's other locales. However, it's "one of our top metropolitan areas in North America," he said. In the fall, another San Francisco regional store will be added, in the state capital of Sacramento. The Sacramento store will be in the Roseville Shopping Centre and will be 4,200 square feet.

Fernández's translucent 36-foot-long, flat ocean blue glass installation has a subtle ceramic texture and covers the front of an interior balcony overlooking the first floor. Its six panels are dotted with 16,000 small, round silver cabochon mirrors in an undulating pattern that reflect the changing daylight streaming into the store. At night, "Hothouse" plays off interior lights to create a shimmering effect."The pattern is abstract and organic. At night it can look like night sky and foliage," said Fernández, a MacArthur Foundation and Guggenheim fellow. Among Fernández's other West Coast works open to the public is her "Cloud Cover" on the banks of Puget Sound in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park. With glass, the artist covered the side of a canopy and side of a pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks. The glass is imbedded with digital pictures of the sky at different times, which broadcast patterns from light reflecting the actual sky.

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