“This is not a wussie handbag,” Peter Marino deadpanned about his pitch-black contribution to Louis Vuitton’s latest Artycapucines collection, composed of leather straps, nail heads and medieval-inspired hardware.
The American architect was one of six contemporary artists Vuitton conscripted to create a unique version of its Capucines handbag, which will be sold in a limited edition of 200 in Vuitton boutiques worldwide. Each is priced at 8,000 euros.
Marino said his accessory design, undeniably tough in spirit, would make a practical and hard-wearing day bag — or a conversation-sparking object to display at home.
“Is it a handbag, or a sculpture?” he teased over the line from his New York office. “I know at least three women who collect handbags and put them under glass.”
To be sure, Vuitton is among brands increasingly blurring the lines between fashion and art. It will unveil its 2022 Artycapucines Collection at Paris+, the new art fair from the organizers of Art Basel. It runs from Oct. 20 to 22 at the Grand Palais Éphémère, and Vuitton has signed on as an associate partner.
The other five participating artists are Amélie Bertrand, Daniel Buren, Park Seo-Bo, Ugo Rondinone and Kennedy Yanko, whose version of the structured, top-handle bag is also tough-minded, resembling a crumpled, rusting hunk of metal.
In an exclusive interview Marino lamented that many academics still distinguish between fine arts and decorative arts. He argued that all hand-crafted things qualify as fine art.
While best known for splashy retail projects for the likes of Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Bulgari, Zegna and other luxury brands, plus private homes and yachts, Marino is also represented by Gagosian, the private gallery that has been selling his cabinet-sized bronze boxes for the past dozen years. (It is understood they sell in the low six-figures.)
Manufactured in France by Ateliers Saint-Jacques, the bronze sculptures can take up to six months to realize and boast surface designs resembling water ripples, dragon scales or rough stone.
For his Artycapucines bag, Marino also took cues from a medieval box he discovered when he was visiting a 14th-century building in Venice, intrigued by its heavy straps and strange locking mechanism.
He mused that such a strongbox might have sheltered gemstones, gold, chalices, “or, since it’s Venice, maybe a few yards of silk, which cost an obscene amount of money in those days.”
For someone accustomed to envisioning buildings, was it hard to intervene on such a small object?
“It was a fun challenge,” Marino retorted. “I design furniture for Vuitton; I design carpets and doorknobs, so it’s very much in the vein of what I do for them.
“I’ve got a lot of fans who don’t mind my aesthetic,” he continued. “They said, ‘Make a bag that pleases yourself.’ It’s just self-expression.”
Marino, partial to head-to-toe biker leathers crafted to his specifications, said he actually designed his first handbag about 40 years ago — a leather sack for himself that resembles a mail-carrier bag, since he did not wish to tote around a hard briefcase. Today he also designs vases for Venini and silver bowls and vessels for Spain’s Garrido.
Meanwhile, inspirations for the other 2022 Artycapucines range from serious to silly.
Bertrand, who hails from Cannes, France, and is known for her hallucinatory landscapes and still lives, decided to create a handbag for nightclubbing. Her Artycapucines has a phosphorescent handle, psychedelic gradient colors, a heavy chain and dangling starburst elements.
“You could say I wanted to pimp my bag,” Bertrand exclaimed.
Buren and Seo-Bo’s handbags closely echo their artworks; the former’s a colorful trapezoid topped by a striped circle; the latter’s composed of heavily textured strips of red and black inspired by a valley at sunset.
Rondinone’s effort could be adopted for Pride Month with its rainbow handle — or for Halloween clown costumes, given the densely beaded harlequin pattern decorating the rest of the bag.
The Capucines bag was introduced in 2013 as Vuitton embarked on an upscaling drive and introduced higher-priced bags.
Delphine Arnault, executive vice president in charge of supervising Vuitton’s product-related activities, has been instrumental in orchestrating its projects with artists, introducing the Artycapucines concept in 2019.
Over the years, Vuitton has has collaborated with such art greats as Sol LeWitt, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons and Yayoi Kusama.