By  on October 22, 2007

LONDON — Art and commerce have joined forces again, this time in the shape of a limited edition handbag produced by Puma and "curated" by London's Serpentine Gallery.

The Reality Bag, which will launch in January, is based on Puma's high-end Urban Mobility Edition Bag. Thanks to the Serpentine, it has an artsy edge, and is packed with sophisticated playthings such as a stencil, a notepad printed with artists' doodles, a brain-shaped paperweight and a silk scarf.

"We've done designer collaborations and we thought it was time to start something different," said Jochen Zeitz, chairman and chief executive officer of Puma, referring to the brand's collaborations with Alexander McQueen, Jil Sander and Philippe Starck.

"We want to push the boundaries of our brand — it's what the consumer has come to expect," he added during an interview at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park here.

The bag, which will retail for $950, will be sold at the gallery, and at select Puma locations and retailers worldwide. It comes in a limited run of 1,000, and for every bag sold Puma will donate $100 to the gallery's education and public programs.

Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine Gallery, said working with Puma was no different than any of the other artist-based or curatorial projects at the gallery. She and colleague Hans Ulrich Obrist, director of international projects, picked the Switzerland-based John Armleder to re-create the basic Urban Mobility bag, which is roomy, rectangular and has a wooden base.

"We were looking for someone who could traverse the worlds of art, architecture and design," Obrist said. "John was a pioneer in all three, so it was an easy decision for us."

Armleder's bag is made from metallic silver leather with a chrome base. His signature brain design, also made from chrome, adorns the front of the bag and pops up again as a paperweight inside.

He also asked 100 artists to doodle on half of a notepad, which is found inside the bag.

Armleder tapped additional artists to create the other goodies inside the bag: Painter and sculptor John Tremblay has made a stencil with Swiss cheese-like holes in it, while Philippe Decrauzat has made a black-and-white silk scarf printed with one of his modernist wallpaper designs.The ad campaign has been shot by the American artist-photographer Ryan McGinley and shows Irina Lazareanu modeling the bag.

Peyton-Jones said the association with Puma is an important one for the contemporary art gallery, which relies mostly on private funding for its exhibitions, annual architecture pavilions, education and public programs.

"It's a very significant contribution to the work of the Serpentine," she said of the project.

Peyton-Jones added the target customer for the bags is "anyone who wants to own an art object. And let's face it, the appetite for handbags nowadays is endless."

She said the audiences for art and fashion are "not segregated as they once were, there is no division between the people who shop at Selfridges and the people who come to the Serpentine."

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