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Louis Vuitton’s 116 Greene Street location in New York recently underwent an entire renovation by Peter Marino. In addition to the new design, the brand continues its support of contemporary art with a new piece from Japanese artist Shuji Mukai, alongside works by the Campana Brothers and Giuseppe Penone.
Mukai, recognized for his black-and-white paintings of symbols, markings, and mixed media, was part of the Gutai group—the first radical, post-war artistic movement in Japan. Mukai’s commissioned work greets guests in the front of the store, spread over several columns. Usually working in black and white, the artist chose to paint in dark brown as an ode to Louis Vuitton, and the symbols covering the columns are twisted and turned askew, meant to scramble the meaning of each sign or icon.
“They’re not just symbols for me. I wanted to recreate the meaningless as a meaning. All of the people remember these as symbols—up, down, right, and left. They’re directional,” said Mukai of his artwork on the store’s columns. “It may look like an ‘A,’ but if you turn it, it’s not an ‘A’ anymore. I wanted people to think ‘what is this?’”
Early this month, the President and CEO of Louis Vuitton Americas, Anthony Ledru, opened the store’s doors to a select group to celebrate its makeover with canapés, cocktails, and a tour. Whitewall was there to explore the new features: a perfume counter on the ground level’s floor; a custom monogram-stamping station in the men’s den downstairs; and Mukai’s work.
To learn more about the year-long project and the art within, we spoke with Marino about his role in shaping the brand’s downtown image.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about the design of the SoHo space?
PETER MARINO: The new boutique is modern and minimal; the streamlined design can be likened to a gallery space. The design supports the integration of original architectural details; the tin ceiling and timber flooring. The track lighting furthers the gallery experience. High-tech materials like carbon fiber were used for the new shelving. The design includes twisting/manipulating each piece of aluminum carbon fiber to imitate the horizontal speed of travel. Luxury is provided by textured custom finishes and furnishings made of petrified and recycled wood, leather, brass, and stone.
WW: How did you work the cultural history of SoHo into the concept?
PM: SoHo’s identity as an arts district, with artist studios and artist galleries, was central to the development of the store design. Right now, it’s a one-off, but I anticipate placing elements of the new concept throughout the network.
WW: How did you and Shuji Mukai meet? Why was he an artist you wanted to incorporate into the design of the new store?
PM: I went to the Venice Biennale two years ago and discovered a huge room painted by Shuki Mukai. I read he was part of the Gutai movement. I asked him if he would do something for us. It took three people one week to cover the three columns and the floor.
WW: Shuji Mukai is known for his use of of symbols, including crosses and triangles. Did you see a link between this and the Louis Vuitton monogram?
PM: Yes, the monogram is an art form of abstract symbols. If you visit the Vuitton museum in Asnières, France, you learn that the original Louis Vuitton monogram came from 19th-century Japonism graphics.
WW: What drew you to the nature-inspired work of Giuseppe Penone?
PM: I saw his show at Versailles and was struck by his earthy use of leather and wood in such a glamorous and obviously French setting. I found the contrast cool—the equivalent a Vuitton handbag on your arm while visiting the great French monuments.