The interplay between art and fashion is a longstanding phenomenon – think Salvador Dalí’s collusion with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, or the 1965 Yves Saint Laurent collection inspired by the work of Piet Mondrian. Nowhere else is this relationship more evident than in collaborations between artists and the great handbag labels.
The emergence of the It Bag was in no small measure due to the influence of Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs, who held the position from 1997 to 2014. A collector himself, Jacobs brought his passion for art — as well as his tendency to take risks — to the Vuitton runway.
For the 2001 Spring Runway show, Jacobs tasked artist Stephen Sprouse with defacing the monogrammed canvas for an exclusive line of Grafitti accessories. Jacobs told Harper’s Bazaar he was inspired by the irreverence of Marcel Duchamp, who famously reproduced the Mona Lisa with the addition of a beard. The success of this collaboration laid the foundations for Jacobs’ creative freedom at Louis Vuitton — and for more artist collaborations to follow.
The best known artist collaboration Louis Vuitton embarked upon under Jacobs was with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Jacobs’ approach to Murakami resulted in the Multicolore, featuring the artist’s signature cheerful colour palette on a clean white background. The inaugural collection for the 2003 Runway show featured Murakami’s creation. These limited-edition handbags bridged the world of contemporary art and fashion, and are extremely collectible today.
The spirit of Magritte
Belgian heritage brand Delvaux is known for luxuriously crafted handbags with a surrealist twist, channeling the spirit of René Magritte — whether through the curve of the top handle or its impudent innovation — in particular. Delvaux sponsored the René Magritte exhibition at SFMoMA in 2018. In celebration of this relationship, Delvaux has incorporated the iconic forms of Magritte’s art — as seen in Le lieu commun and Le fils de l'homme — into limited-edition handbags that celebrate the marriage of the two Belgians.
With his penchant for exploring the relationship between art and consumerism, Jeff Koons was perhaps an obvious choice for a collaboration with Vuitton. Koons created an exclusive line of handbags and accessories emblazoned with Old Master works to bring the art-museum experience into the consumer’s closet. The addition of the artist’s name across the front of the bags invited the collector to consider the work anew.
In 2018 Hermès teamed up with the architect, illustrator and artist Nigel Peake, who had already created the On a Summer Day scarf and Constance bags for the house. Known for his geometric designs and use of vibrant colours, Peake devised the vibrant One Two Three & Away We Go Birkin, inspired by the Ferris Wheel on the Grande Roue de la Concorde in Paris. Peake also created a silk scarf — or carré — with the same moniker.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
The newest and most exciting development in the handbag auction market is the introduction of one-of-a-kind pieces that have been customised by contemporary artists. The Hermès Kelly is arguably the most influential bag in the world, inspiring countless designers over the decades since its initial introduction as the ‘Sac à dépêches’ in 1935.
In this unique artwork artist Tom Sachs has given a second life to a 1996 Hermès Gold Kelly. The Nasa Kelly was privately commissioned to be sold at a charity auction in 2009. In June 2018 Christie’s sold this unique, wearable work of art for £40,000.
Japanese artist Yohei Yama, who currently lives and works in Regny, France, is best known for his photography and paintings. The miniature trees rendered on this Kelly 35 are an oft-repeated motif in his works — a reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
In the spring of 2016, Christie’s offered Yama’s Four Seasons in an auction of Asian Contemporary Art, and we were proud to have featured his artistic interpretation of an orange Togo leather Kelly 35 painted with miniature trees in a Handbags & Accessories auction in May 2018. Yama has added his signature to the interior of the bag.