Above: Urs Fischer’s artwork ascends the facade of Louis Vuitton’s Fifth Avenue flagship and headquarters in Manhattan.
Urs Fischer’s spring takeover of Louis Vuitton storefronts feels more like a psychedelic art installation than the launch of a new capsule collection. From the zany imagery that the celebrated Swiss artist applied to the 15-story facade of the luxury maison’s Fifth Avenue headquarters in Manhattan to the trippy video-loop backdrop (his distorted take on the company’s iconic initials), the result is as much public art exhibition as it is fashion event.
Fortunately, the surreal isn’t limited to just New York City: Louis Vuitton boutiques worldwide are featuring the coterie of frisky characters—from a giant split avocado and fried-egg sculpture to an oversize banana peel and a blissed-out cat—that Fischer has spent the past year devising for his collaboration with the French heritage brand.
“Store windows should be inviting and not intimidating. Art should be everywhere,” says Fischer from his home in Los Angeles. He is acclaimed for wacky, Dada-esque projects, like the 23-foot electric-blue bronze bear, Untitled (Lamp/Bear), recently displayed at Brown University. Another piece, Untitled (Bread House), is an alpine chalet Fischer has reconstructed at various times from loaves of sourdough, which rot during a show.
He explores similar themes of satire and decay in his cheeky, life-size candles of art-world figures like Julian Schnabel, which he burns into puddles of wax.
Fruits and vegetables have long been a mainstay of Fischer’s visual vocabulary—he’ll suspend half a banana from a ceiling or allow produce to putrefy as part of his gallery presentations. For his first Louis Vuitton project in 2019, as one of six artists invited to reimagine the Capucines handbag, Fischer created a set of six silicone sculptures—including a carrot and a banana—to interchangeably dangle from a white leather purse.
The current collaboration originates from doodles that the artist makes on his iPad. “These characters begin as fun drawings, little nuggets that I make and use to communicate with friends and family,” he says. For Vuitton, he transformed the sketches (he compares them to comics) into three-dimensional artworks, including a series of diminutive sculptures made in eco-friendly bio-resin and recycled Dacron. “They tell lots of little stories that accumulate all together like people do in the world,” the artist notes.
Of course, there is also merch. Fischer’s deconstructed “LV” monogram enlivens a range of accessories and ready-to-wear pieces. Classics like the Speedy duffel and the Neverfull tote are reinvented using the embroidery technique tuffetage to plush, sculptural effect. A silk scarf—the latest in a tradition of Vuitton scarves by such artists as Sol LeWitt, Yayoi Kusama, and Richard Prince—is populated by Fischer’s spirited menagerie.
In many ways, the project responds to the present moment—Fischer has created a COVID-friendly, physical art experience in person, yet outdoors. At the Fifth Avenue flagship, the window displays feature a series of cats—one, wide-eyed with purple and yellow fur, examines a lightbulb, while another feline luxuriates on a piece of bread, its paws and tail protruding from the holes in a slice of Swiss cheese. “I like to watch kids create things when they’re very young,” he says of the whimsical vignettes. “I don’t care how it looks. I just try to understand why it’s fun for them.”
The artist views his partnership with Vuitton as a chance to spread his wings. “When you make something with a fashion house, you collaborate, and it’s not necessarily about art or fashion: It’s something in between,” Fischer says. Ultimately, he adds: “I want my art to communicate a celebration of life—life in its many forms.”
This story originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
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