Louis Vuitton: An Invitation for Free Expression

by Pressroom

Louis Vuitton’s exclusive exhibition showcasing 3 limited edition, artistic reinterpretations of the LV Trainer, flags off a new recurring artistic exchange program centred on the iconic trainers.

Originally designed by its former Men’s Artistic Director Virgil Abloh for his debut show for Louis Vuitton in Spring-Summer 2019, the all-white leather low-top LV Trainer has risen to the status of an icon in the sneaker community. Now, the emblematic sneaker is bridging art and the Maison’s savoir-faire with a new recurrent collection of limited-edition LV Trainers reinterpreted by renowned artists – the ‘White Canvas: LV in Residence’ project.

A staple in Louis Vuitton men’s collections, the LV Trainer fuses the authentic codes of basketball shoes with the iconography and expert craftsmanship of the Maison. Each pair is created in the Maison’s Italian factories in Fiesso d’Artico, requiring at least seven hours to complete. The clean lines of this luxury sneaker lend itself to endless creativity, having been presented in a variety of adaptations across multiple collections, in both low-top and high-top iterations. Its original all-white design also makes it a perfect canvas for artistic exchange between Louis Vuitton and contemporary artists – an idea initiated by Virgil Abloh. This idea is now developed into ‘White Canvas: LV Trainer in Residence’ by the Maison in collaboration with Sky Gellatly, CEO and Co-founder of marketing and artist management agency ICNCLST/, who planned and executed some of the most impactful collaborations in the art world.

An invitation for free expression, the collaboration builds on Louis Vuitton’s historical ties to artistic spheres to take these creative conversations further with diverse domains of knowledge and genres. The inaugural collection spotlights Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, and the Estate of late artist Rammellzee, all of whom represent art shaped by the 1980s’ New York underground scene. Now established names in contemporary art, they reinvent the LV Trainer through each of their unique artistic lens.

Artist in Focus: Lady Pink

Born in Ecuador in 1964 and raised in New York City, Lady Pink started writing graffiti when she was 15, painting subway trains till 1985. A leading participant in the rise of graffiti-based art, she also starred in the 1982 motion picture Wild Style, and had her first solo show at the Moore College of Art by the time she was 21. Today, Lady Pink remains a cult figure in the hip-hop community, and is established in the fine arts world. Her canvases have entered important art collections such as those of the Whitney Museum, the MET in New York City, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the Groningen Museum of Holland.

Lady Pink’s interpretation features the prominent use of the colour red, much like her brightly coloured murals, on the sole and the laces. On the body of the shoe is a recurring pattern of small bricks calls to mind New York City walls, the real life canvases of the street artist.

Artist in Focus: Lee Quiñones

Lee Quiñones was born in Puerto Rico in 1960, and rose to fame painting over a hundred of entire subway cars throughout the MTA system in New York City in the 1970s before shifting to a studio-based practice. One of the most influential artists of the New York City subway art movement, Quiñones was pivotal in moving street art above ground with the first handball court mural in 1978. In 1980, he had his first New York show at White Columns, ushering in a new era as spray paint transitioned from moving objects to stationary canvas works. He is celebrated for work ripe with provocative socio-political content and intricate composition.

Lee Quiñones’ LV Trainer is defined by bold yet abstract splashes of gold and a graphic of crossed fingers that symbolize good luck on the tip of the shoe.

Artist in Focus: Rammellzee

At once a polyhedric graffiti writer, visual artist, philosopher, and musician, Rammellzee (1960-2010) expressed himself in rich artworks across disciplines including painting, sculpture and performance art. He was born in Queens to Italian and African American parents, beginning his brief graffiti career on the A train in the mid-1970s. After legally changing his name to the equation RAMM:ELL:ZEE, he conceptualized his manifestoes and gave birth to his ‘Gothic Futurism’ and ‘Iconoclast Panzerism’ theories, materialising them in diverse and rich artworks that reflected the decaying and lawless reality of New York City’s streets. His artistic vision rocked the commercially vibrant Downtown art scene. By the early 1990s, Rammellzee had created a cast of personas and characters made real through costumes, paintings, and sculptures constructed from repurposed trash and epoxy resins.

Reminiscent of his style and reflecting his artistic philosophy, Rammellzee’s LV Trainer features neon images and lettering, including the term “SOS”, that stand out against a black background.

The ‘White Canvas: LV in Residence’ Exhibition

The three novel interpretations of the LV Trainer are showcased in the context of each artist’s work – Lady Pink’s painting “Celtic Piece”, Lee Quiñones’ paintings “SPLIT #1” and “Tablet 3”, and Rammellzee’s “Incantation of the Queen Bee” as well as the ‘L’ and ‘V’ sculptures from his Letters Racers alphabet – at the ephemeral Louis Vuitton store at Garage Traversi in Milan from 24 February to 16 March 2023. Limited numbers of the three inaugural designs by artists Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, and the Estate of Rammellzee, will be exclusively sold at the exhibition that will run till 16 March. Besides the artists’ original hand-painted sneaker adaptations, a series of short films screened onsite share their inspiration and process through interviews and the charting of the sneakers’ transition from hand-crafted artwork to commercialised form, capturing the savoir-faire of Louis Vuitton’s artisans along the way. An immersive video-mapping display also projects a magnified LV Trainer imagined as a blank canvas with the artworks of the artists.

Images courtesy of Louis Vuitton, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

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