By and  on May 14, 2007

PARIS — Are there any handbags in outer space? Not yet, but Louis Vuitton has taken a giant leap in that direction with the latest exhibition at its art gallery atop the Champs-Elysées flagship here.

"The Temptation of Space," which opened last Thursday, is an eclectic exploration of the travel theme that Vuitton treasures — taken to intergalactic extremes. It also proves that, almost four decades after a man first walked on the moon, the cosmos remains a cogent subject for contemporary artists.

"It's like a journey into space with Louis Vuitton," exhibition curator Hervé Mikaeloff said during a walk-through.

The springboard for the exhibition was Vuitton's recent acquisition of a series of rare NASA photos from the Sixties, including kitschy portraits of astronauts clutching models of space capsules or rockets and breathtaking images of earth from space.

Mikaeloff assembled other works around them, tracing the space-art link back to Yves Klein, whose 1957 sculpture of a deep blue globe foreshadowed the view seen by the first astronauts.

French artist Mathieu Briand's sculpture addresses disbelief in space exploration. Visitors enter a space capsule with a video monitor broadcasting grainy images of a lunar landscape, which are actually of a "fake" landscape rotating on a turntable elsewhere in the exhibition.

There are scant links to fashion, save for Jean Larivière, who has lensed Vuitton campaigns and who displays unpublished photos of a lunar-like Chilean landscape and a collection of antique space toys.

Philippe Starck, who is creative director of Virgin Galactic, created a video, projected on a mini planetarium, that evokes a zero-gravity experience. Other artists represented at the exhibition, which runs through Aug. 26, include Nicolas Moulin, Davide Bertocchi, Russell Crotty, Pierre Huyghe, Yukata Sone and Jane and Louis Wilson.

French actress Isabelle Adjani and retired designer Paco Rabanne were among those who attended the opening. The Wilson twins disclosed they'll be headed to New York's Governors Island for their next project, likely to be unveiled next year.

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