By  on November 21, 2006

In 2000, Sylvie Fleury, a Swiss artist known for her sly appropriation of consumer icons, created a silverplated brass sculpture emulating Louis Vuitton's famous Keepall travel bag.

A year later, eagle-eyed Vuitton chief executive Yves Carcelle acquired one, out of a series of eight, at a Phillips auction. After displaying it at the opening of Vuitton's Hong Kong fl agship last year, the heavy-metal work ended up in Carcelle's offi ce on Rue du Pont Neuf in Paris. Then Marc Jacobs saw the piece and was inspired to design a metallic version of the house's iconic Vernis monogram for Vuitton's fall 2006 runway. The bag is slated to arrive in Vuitton stores worldwide on Dec. 1.

As this serpentine story illustrates, the relationship between art and fashion is still going hot and heavy. Indeed, on the eve of Art Basel Miami (Dec. 7 to 10), the next convergence of the art and fashion worlds, links between the two realms are multiplying faster than fi gures in an Antony Gormley installation.

"It's a fascinating ping-pong game," Carcelle says of the art-fashion interplay. Indeed, only the night before he had dined with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, whose blockbuster collaboration with Vuitton has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of multicolored leather goods decorated with eyeballs or cherries. "I think the two universes work really well if it's done with total respect for the artist."

Fashion's interest in the art world is nothing new, but the scale of the projects—and the investments—has taken a quantum leap, in line with the giddiness of the booming art market. Architect Peter Marino, a longtime art advocate, recalls that, in 1991, when he and Simon Doonan collaborated to create the uptown Barneys New York, the retailer commissioned works for the store to be created by 20 artists, some of whom have gone on to become art-world superstars such as Tom Sachs. But Marino says the budget for that entire project was "what they spend on one photograph now."

With such fashion clients as Chanel, Vuitton and Fendi, Marino should know. And he's heartened that many luxury fi rms now routinely incorporate art not only into their stores, but within their entire brand credo. "I think the association with high culture is very smart," Marino says. "It's really an unbelievable brand reinforcement." In fact, he predicts art and artists soon will infi ltrate fashion advertising, and that luxury fi rms will start commissioning pieces of music, too.

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