Wanted! Artist Bags

Hettie Judah searches for acquirable, desirable objects, at the intersection of where art meets fashion and design. This month: Artist Bags

By Hettie Judah

Tote bag with artwork by Stefano Favaro of Osservatorio Outsider Art, Italy. Marni Pre-Fall 2014 Louis Vuitton Icons and Iconoclasts trunk by Cindy Sherman. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton Iconoclasts trunk by Cindy Sherman. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton Louis Vuitton Icons and Iconoclasts Camera Messenger bag by Cindy Sherman. Image courtesy Louis Vuitton Artist file, with zipper and patches. Raf Simons / Sterling Ruby AW14-15 Drip bag in Sterling Ruby fabric. Raf Simons / Sterling Ruby AW14-1 MIka Ninagawa EDEN collection for Etro, 2014 MIka Ninagawa EDEN collection for Etro, 2014

Balloon dog bag, shmalloon dog bag. Sure, those dinky Jeff Koons for H&M satchels sold out like hotdogs and are now going for three figure sums on the secondary market (aka eBay). But the handbag’s identity as a useful sack-like thing for carrying keys, chewing gum and well-thumbed copies of How to Write About Contemporary Art has become quite auxiliary to its status as a portable billboard from which the carrier hopes to acquire some kind of personality by association. And I’m not necessarily sure that I want said personality-by-association to be that of Koons – charming as butter though he is reputed to be. In addition, there’s something intrinsically unsatisfying about a flat image of an artwork being plastered onto something wearable – the ‘I like Koons’-ness of it rather drowned out the ‘I like fashion’-ness.

Not so with Cindy Sherman’s Camera Messenger bag and trunk collaboration with Louis Vuitton (bag £2,370, trunk POA), which is, at a push, as close to a gesamtkunstwerk as such things ever really get. Sherman has, rather winningly, managed to mess with her own body of work even more than she has with the Louis Vuitton branding (or perhaps one should say, even more than Franco did?). Both pieces of luggage are plastered with labels featuring Sherman personas in kitschy peril or peculiar context – an Untitled Film Still chick stands roadside as the sky above her darkens with bomber planes or the mountain in the background explodes into cartoon ash and magma. There are clowns and hysterics and makeup abusers, some framed with life preservers baring the motto ‘No One Can Save You Now’, Marie Antoinette gazes imperiously through a plane window and ‘Vuitton Sherman’ is announced as a new travel destination.

Vuitton Sherman may well become a bona fide destination in the none-too-distant future. This Sherman collaboration is one of six, all with high profile creative types, many of whom have notable existing connections to the brand, including Frank Gehry (architect of the soon to be open Louis Vuitton Foundation); Karl Lagerfeld (designer behind the LVMH–owned brand Fendi); Rei Kawukabo (founder of the Dover Street Market store in which this collection will be presented). Is it then fair to bet that when the Arnault collection is unveiled at the Foundation later this month there will be a little corner of it that is indeed Vuitton Sherman?

Sherman has designed the trunk for personal use (though suggests that it could be ideal for a drag queen on tour) labelling the little compartments within for plastic teeth, fake eyeballs and other such essentials of the uncanny. Surely there must be a nagging temptation within Louis Vuitton to ditch all the Lang Lang concerts and other such highminded flimflam programmed for its opening weeks and instead launch with a vast Cindy Sherman-themed Halloween party? Prosthetic noses at the ready!

Between all the post-punk nostalgia, patch-fetishism and disembowelment of 'Old Glory' that took place on the Raf Simons / Sterling Ruby catwalk, the Dior designer and the one-time ArtReview cover star (that would be the December 2006 edition Raf – remember, we saw him first…) also managed to produce some artist bags. One of them practically shouts ARTIST BAG at you - a distressed portfolio case (Artist file, €1050) complete with scrape marks presumably from the voracious gallerists tussling over you and who’s sharp-finger nailed hands are depicting grabbing at the bag from without. To be fair the other bags in the collection pretty much shouted RUBY – sagging droplet-shaped sacks in custom bleach-splatted cloth that resemble deflated boxing bags or a fattened up version of the artist’s Vampire series with a useful carry-handle (Drip bag, €500).

Etro’s bag collaboration with Mika Ninagawa does not, on first inspection really seem to resonate with the Japanese artist’s work in quite the same way. But then Ninagawa’s work is so much about the shiny and artificial, the reflection and perfection that repels engagement, and the multi-layered creation of self, that I guess the key could be in the styling. Worn all at the same time with a pink wig, nylon cosplay/furry outfit, moustache and hint of sidecrotch, and you might start to exude an appropriate level of sensory overkill and compromised innocence. 

Like a reviving smack on the wrist in this week of artworld celebrity and sales figure obsession, Marni’s pre-Fall collection took its creative cues from three artists from France and Italy operating outside of the art market. After ‘extensive research on Art Brut and Outsider Art’ designer Consuelo Castiglioni worked with Christophe Joubert and Francois-Xavier Tavy-Sacley from France and Stefano Favaro from Italy, using imagery from their existing bodies of work on garments and accessories, including a selection of graphic PVC tote bags (£200). 

For visuals of all products please scroll through images above.

Online exclusive published 15 October 2014