The Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer show in December 2012 in the Louvre, Photo © Louis Vuitton
Every trick in the book…
by Annette Tietenberg | Mar 22, 2013

The 1960s are back: beehives, maxi and miniskirts, short coats, jumpsuits, collarless jackets that show a little stomach, and not to be forgotten stilettos adorned with little bows and the perfect accompaniment – a classic top handle bag with a flip clasp. The pieces featured in the Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2013 show held in the Louvre, Paris in December, which now fill double-page spreads in glossy fashion magazines, their Op-art effects rather heavy on the eye, constitute a tribute to the space-age look of the 1960s. And at the same time remaining very much in line with the zeitgeist of our own time, questioning the boundaries between art and fashion, if not eliminating them entirely. For the man behind the show’s set and the subsequent promotional images is none other than Daniel Buren, one of the first conceptual artists.

His trademarks are striped awning fabrics, mostly in the traditionally French combination of white and blue. In retrospect, Daniel Buren describes his collaboration with designer and Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs as a completely crazy experiment. Creating an entire collection together in less than three months? Having never worked together before? Impossible! And yet: they managed it – it was a success. Apparel and accessories boasting checkered patterns in yellow and white, black and white and beige and white by Marc Jacobs, countered by walls and flooring designed by Daniel Buren bedecked in yellow and white squares and rectangles. And all this accompanied by a soundtrack of Minimal music: “Knee Play 5”, the finale of “Einstein on the Beach”, an opera by Philip Glass – a paragon for the application of the principles of addition and subtraction in musical patterns.

Here the fashion world is transformed into the stage par excellence, not dissimilar to the set of Alain Resnais’ enigmatic film “Last Year in Marienbad”, which (you guessed it) ushered in the 1960s and paid homage to chess and chessboard patterns alike. The film portrays its characters as they fall out of chronology, misled by their memories and recollection, become strangers and confidants all at once. Alain Robbe-Grillet, the brain behind the screenplay, intimates that the world in which the film takes place is indeed the world of a continuous present. He portrays a world without a past that is sufficient unto itself in each and every moment.

Whether repetition is at all possible and how it becomes perceivable – these are questions that have preoccupied Daniel Buren for 40 years now. His artistic work gives short shrift to the traditional notion of art, for it is ephemeral, does not define itself in a wealth of ideas and is not about items for sale. Buren has no need for a studio, that mythical source of art itself; all of his work takes place in situ. His method is as clear as it is consistent: For the duration of the exhibition, ergo for a pre-determined period of time, he combines a constant, the block stripes, with a variable, the place where these vertical stripes take their respective effect. This repetition ensures their recognizability and creates an easily identifiable correlation between the works, while the specificity of the location makes each and every one of the artist’s interventions distinct and unique. In this way, Buren draws our attention to the location itself – and resultantly to the institution that has commissioned and at the same time restricted his intervention. For the limitations are plenty, be they of an architectural, spatial or financial nature or resulting from the rules of the game as laid down by the museums and exhibition spaces on the side of the art establishment.

Surrounding himself in dialectic contradictions is something that has come easy to Daniel Buren since day one. But this time it isn’t the art world that he is holding a mirror up to, but the fashion world, which oscillates between theater and consumption; as such, he need not do more than expand the repertoire of his tools just a fraction. In the same way the awning pattern extracted from everyday life once made an impact on art, the shapes of the art world, namely the square and rectangle (the most common canvas formats) have moved into the world of fashion. But enough of that. As though bordered by a narrow frame, white and yellow squares are layered one on top of another, stretching the space that surrounds the models out into profundity. Josef Albers’ “Homage to the Square” says hi, by the way. Furthermore, there is another reference to the world of painting in the interleaving of the set, clothing and bags: the indifferentiability of figure and ground. But don’t think the spectrum of repetition has been exhausted just yet, far from it. For the models are arranged in pairs on the yellow and white stage. At first glance, only the most minimal of differences are visible when one compares this army of twins identical in size, profile and hairstyle. Perhaps the contour of their nose, the sweep of their lips, the size of their eyes. It’s the same with the clothes. Sometimes they have buttons, sometimes a narrow neckline, others patch pockets. It looks the same, but it isn’t.

“The constant differentiation of one and the same thing is what we call repetition,” Daniel Buren once said. And how right he was. Bound up in his concept, even fashion, something that has succumbed to the appeal of novelty, reveals the source from which it draws the majority of its ideas: repetition. But, and it is not least Louis Vuitton that profits from this, it is no less beautiful and desirable for it.

Artistic Director Marc Jacobs and Daniel Buren created an entire collection together in less than three months. Photo © Louis Vuitton
The man behind the show’s set and the subsequent promotional images is conceptual artists Daniel Buren, Photo © Louis Vuitton
Stilettos adorned with little bows and the perfect accompaniment – a classic top handle bag with a flip clasp, photo © Louis Vuitton
Here the fashion world is transformed into the stage par excellence. Photo © Louis Vuitton
The 1960s are back: beehives, maxi and miniskirts, Photo © Louis Vuitton
The show ran to the music “Knee Play 5”, the finale of “Einstein on the Beach”, an opera by Philip Glass. Photo © Louis Vuitton
A tribute to the space-age look of the 1960s, Photo © Louis Vuitton