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The Best New Collaborations Between Artists, Designers And Luxury Brands

Luxury brands are pre-empting the world of art and design by commissioning special projects, like Ruinart's recent collaboration with Jaume Plensa or Fendi's partnership with Cristina Celestino. 

Luxury brands are pre-empting the creations of artists and designers by commissioning their own projects. Does this undermine the philosophy of art? Do such brands have any real motive for such collaborations beyond PR for themselves? Others say that commercial involvement need not be a design graveyard and that the artistic scope of such projects is ever-expanding. After all, the wealthy and powerful have been commissioning art since the Middle Ages and Renaissance times.

Billionaire rounds up a selection of the best recent collaborations featuring artists and designers sponsored by luxury brands.

Fendi x Cristina Celestino (pictured above)
Fendi has history in this arena, having initiated the Craft Punk movement back in 2009. In 2012, Fendi invited Studio Formafantasma to develop Craftica, a collection made out of skin and leather left-overs. It also unveiled a retail space by designer and architect Johanna Grawunder in 2015. In December 2016, at Design Miami, Fendi sponsored Cristina Celestino’s Happy Room as a bright take on materiality, transforming fur into a design component.

“Fendi has always thought against straightforward vulgarity. In decontextualising fur, Cristina Celestino took away the status symbol. She used it as a new material,” says Silvia Fendi. “Fur is naturally soft; she gave it strength and solidified it.”

Celestino created a new special fur treatment under resin: seen in fur panels, the alternating and contrasting materials give the fur an almost frosted, 3D look. “The frosting of fur is almost a way to make it eternal, yet it adds a touch of lightness,” says Celestino. On the stand, one felt the softness of the fur through the resin, petrified yet sensual.

Ruinart x Jaume Plensa

World-renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, who has made the body and letters his trademark, last month collaborated with Ruinart on a sculpture that pays tribute to Dom Thierry Ruinart, uncle of the champagne house’s founder. Plensa is best known for his oversized human figure sculptures – heads or entire bodies sprouting from the ground – made of cast iron, bronze, stainless steel, marble, alabaster, glass, wood, cement, dolomite, fibreglass or polyester resin and weighing many tonnes each. By introducing art into the public sphere, he transforms the space and enriches a community.

Plensa’s latest artwork is a commission from Ruinart established in 1729, which has developed close links with the art world ever since 1896 when Czech artist Alphonse Mucha was tasked with illustrating an advertisement for the brand. Ruinart invites one artist annually to give his or her interpretation of the values, savoir-faire and heritage of the house. Plensa was drawn to Ruinart’s origins, particularly to Dom Thierry Ruinart, the uncle of the champagne house’s founder, Nicolas Ruinart. The insightful Benedictine monk had predicted that the new “wine with bubbles” – produced in his native Champagne region and which the European royal courts cherished – had a bright future ahead of it. Plensa wished to pay tribute to the scholar who had studied art, history and theology and published numerous texts in French, Latin and Greek. The result is a stainless steel sculpture two metres tall and weighing 145 kg, whose contours are formed from the signs and letters of eight different languages –Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Hindi – where each alphabet celebrates one culture and their combination global unity, thereby echoing the multilingual writings of Thierry Ruinart that have been deconstructed into letters. Launched recently in Paris, the sculpture will travel throughout the year to the three Art Basel fairs worldwide and Frieze New York and London.

“Art many times is just a beautiful excuse to transform the way that you look at the reality around you, and it’s also the idea of communication, building bridges, putting people in touch with one another,” says Plensa. “An alphabet is probably the best portrait of one culture, and to put all these alphabets together is a beautiful metaphor for our world today.”

Louis Vuitton x Tokujin Yoshioka

In 2016, Louis Vuitton commissioned Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka to imagine the Blossom Stool. The Japanese designer started researching a four-foil motif and how he could best turn it into a natural structure. His approach is also symbolic, and a clear reference to the Louis Vuitton monogram with petals. Sculpted out of laminated wood and covered in leather, the four petals, similar in shape, compose a timeless structure. Cast aluminum with gold-chromed finish, the petals seem to be whirling, infinitely. As to whether form or function came first, Yoshioka says: “Neither shape nor function. I invent beyond forms, to create iconic objects that are universal and timeless.”

Perrier-Jouët x Andrew Kudless

For Champagne house Perrier-Jouët, San Francisco-based Andrew Kudless looked back at design history. “I was interested in the way that strands, fibres, branches and vines are at the basis of the Art Nouveau language, from paintings to architecture,” he says. Presented at Design Miami 2016, his Strand Garden unfolded as a standalone structure composed of three curved screens evoking tree trunks or vines. “The curving strand motif evokes nature and movement over time. I wanted to look at four of Perrier-Jouët’s emblematic materials — wood, chalk, glass and grapes — and see how I could create strands out of each one.

The robotically milled oak tops of his interlocking benches evoke the Champagne industry’s riddling racks and wine presses, while the concrete of their legs has been specially treated to resemble the chalk that shelters the maison’s cellars and nourishes its vines. Finally, Kudless collected ground Chardonnay skins to 3D-print a burgundy-coloured ice bucket.

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