Marc Jacobs of Louis Vuitton (LV) continues to push fashion and art collaboration to the cutting edge with his latest partnership with the contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The iconic “polka-dots” designs will be launched in July 2012.

Yayoi Kusama, portrait by Shawn Mortensen

Yayoi Kusama. Portrait: Shawn Mortensen.

Kusama’s art will decorate a range of Louis Vuitton products including handbags, footwear, watches, jewellery and apparel items. The collection is called “Infinitely Kusama” and has  been described as “Louis Vuitton encounters Japan’s most prominent avant-garde artist”.

The collaboration with Kusama, the launch of which will take place in July 2012, will be the first time the fashion house has worked with a woman. In Marc Jacob’s interview with LV he said of the artist, “her energy is endless, … you see this world that never ends, … and that’s what I admire, … what I love and … what I respond to”. He hopes that the collaboration will provide a place “for many people who … are not aware of Kusama’s work, … to see this work, and to come to appreciate it through the eyes of Louis Vuitton”.

Yayoi Kusama no stranger to fashion, design

Kusama’s fame began in the 1960s when she moved to New York and became part of the then-emerging Pop art scene. Her work featured in a group show held at Green Gallery in June of 1962 with Robert Morris, Andy Warhol, George Segal, James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenburg.

In 1973, Kusama was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was committed to a mental institution in Tokyo and has resided there ever since. Art historian Dr Midori Yoshimoto believes that, as a result of her mental illness, Kusama has been associated with the stereotype of a “mad-artist”. Laura Hoptman, of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), explains that “Kusama’s interest in patterns began with hallucinations she experienced as a young girl, visions of nets, dots and flowers that covered everything she saw”.

Artist Yayoi Kusama exhibits her work.

Towards the end of the 1960s, Kusama founded the Yayoi Kusama Fashion Company which produced and marketed avant-garde fashion. In a 1993 interview with Japanese art critic Akira Tatehata, Kusama said that “walking on the streets, I noticed many people who wore clothes which were very similar to my designs”. Her more conservative styles were popular with buyers from big department stores, but the “radical vanguard items” that she “poured her energy into” did not sell so well.

In 2009, Kusama designed a handbag-shaped cell phone called “C-top” and an accompanying dog-shaped holder for Japan’s mobile communication giant KDDI’s “iida” brand.

A model holds the handbag-shaped cell phone and accompanying dog-shaped holder designed by Yayoi Kusama during a press conference to announce the new mobile brand 'iida' in Tokyo on 7 April, 2009.

Fashion houses as art patrons

Marc Jacobs, the creative director of Louis Vuitton, has a proven ability to successfully collaborate with famous contemporary artists. In 2001, Jacobs worked with Stephen Sprouse to design a line of Louis Vuitton monogram bags scrawled with the artist’s graffiti, and in 2009, Jacobs created a new collection inspired by this earlier collaboration, which coincided with a retrospective exhibition at New York gallery Deitch Projects. In 2003, Jacobs and Takashi Murakami saw huge commercial success when they teamed up to design a series of handbags using recreated LV monograms.

Yayoi Kusama, 'Gold Shoes', 2000, set of 28 shoes, cotton and spray-paint.

Yayoi Kusama, 'Gold Shoes', 2000, set of 28 shoes, cotton and spray-paint.

In fact, Jacobs may have set a trend for other French fashion houses to follow. During the 2011 Art Basel Miami Beach fair, Christian Dior unveiled a limited edition line of accessories created in collaboration with German contemporary artist Anselm Reyle, schedule to launch in March of 2012.

Louis Vuitton supports Yayoi Kusama exhibition

Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern in 2012.

The exhibition of Yayoi Kusama's life's work will be held at Tate Modern in 2012.

Given Marc Jacobs’ interest in contemporary art, it should come as no surprise that Louis Vuitton is sponsoring the upcoming exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s life’s work at Tate Modern in London. The exhibition will run from 9 February to 5 June 2012 and will show nine decades of Kusama’s art.

Head to the show with Art Radar! We are inviting inviting readers, students, contributors and friends to a get together in London on 16 February 2012 to view the spectacular, 14-room big Yayoi Kusama retrospective at Tate Modern. Click here for more information on this 2012 London City Meet Up.


Related Topics: art and brandingYayoi KusamaJapanese artists

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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