It is a very tricky case. A giant trunk installed in Red Square by fashion house Louis Vuitton is to be dismantled after unprecedentedly widespread dismay at both its look and its location. The office of the president has asked for the installation, which is nearly three storeys high and the length of a football pitch, to be removed because of the public reaction and because its construction was not agreed with the authorities.
Two other locations in Moscow, the All-Russian Exhibition Centre and Gorky Park, have offered to take the trunk, which was built in celebration of the 120th anniversary of Red Square department store GUM. The enormous cuboid was due to host an exhibition, The Soul of Travel, the proceeds of which were to be given to the Naked Heart Foundation, the charity founded by Natalia Vodianova. The supermodel expressed her desire that the exhibition be relocated, not cancelled: “If the exhibition does not go ahead, then we will not only be deprived of a fascinating journey into history and beauty, but there will be no charitable donations from ticket sales.” Vodianova is the girlfriend of the son of Bernard Arnault, the director of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, who own Louis Vuitton.
The gargantuan suitcase is decorated in the familiar Louis Vuitton marque and bears the initials P.W.O, which stand for “Prince Wladimir Orloff”. Prince Vladimir Orlov was a close confidant of Tsar Nicholas II. The multinational brand has stressed its historical connection with Russia: “This suitcase is the pavilion for an exhibition dedicated to the legendary personalities that have been clients of the house since it was established. It has a non-commercial character.”
In 1998 a law was introduced which forbids the construction on Red Square of any buildings that do not fit with the historic surroundings of the square, which is located just outside the Kremlin and is home to St Basil’s cathedral, views of which are obscured by the looming luggage. A former marketplace, the square hosts parades and is considered one of the most important public spaces in Russia.
Pavel Pozhigailo, president of the culture commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, was one of a number of prominent critics of the installation: “In my opinion, in human terms it’s simply a disgrace. Turning Red Square into some sort of circus is wrong, because there are plenty of spaces where you can experiment, carry out some interesting creative ideas. But it doesn’t have to be connected to a place with enormous historical significance. There should be a certain correctness, decorum, respect.”
This scandal follows soon after Red Square came to global attention when activist-artist Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones as an act of protest.
At the time of writing, the organisers of the exhibition have begun taking apart the suitcase.