Louis Vuitton Opens “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” exhibition in New York City

The New York leg of Louis Vuitton‘s traveling exhibition, “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton,” has landed in Lower Manhattan, a visual chronicle of the brand since its founding in 1854. The expansive show takes up two floors in the former New York Stock Exchange and is packed to the brim with the usual suspects—trunks, monograms, artist collaborations—and plenty of unusual ones, too, each one selected by master curator and historian Olivier Saillard.

Saillard was approached by Bernard Arnault more than two years ago to create an exhibit about Louis Vuitton’s 163-year history. “It was quite a big challenge to do a big exhibition for Vuitton because there are so many exhibitions we could do devoted to Vuitton,” Saillard admits. Ultimately, he found himself enthralled by the story of the maison’s founder, who left his home in the Jura region of France at the tender age of 14 and traveled to Paris by foot to apprentice as a trunk maker and packer. “I was very fascinated about this story of this young boy who decided to leave his family and travel for two years to work in Paris, so I tried to do, in each room of the exhibition, in each chapter, a self portrait of a man,” he says. The goal: “Sometimes to forget Louis Vuitton, the big brand, in order to remember the man that started this huge story.”

Monsieur Vuitton’s legacy and that of his son, Georges Vuitton, and grandson, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, haunt the exhibit in fantastic ways. Upon entering you are greeted with an Impressionistic painting of the founder—quite handsome, you’ll notice—and throughout the show, signed documents, letters, and personal ephemera are paired alongside the maison’s most iconic pieces. “There is, in those documents, a way to reintroduce the life,” says Saillard. “Sometimes when you discover a letter, a document, something very ordinary, it brings more life than something very important.”

The exhibition is sorted into categories like automobiles, train travel, and celebrities, and within each is a piece to fawn over. Early on, in a room dedicated to boats, are the animal-embossed trunks from Wes Anderson’s 2007 The Darjeeling Limited. Those lie just beside a new Louis Vuitton trunk bag by Nicolas Ghesquière and a copper trunk from 1903. (In truth, the continuity between Vuitton’s earliest creations and the modern pieces of the Marc Jacobs, Kim Jones, and Ghesquière eras is striking.) Later on—past Gaston-Louis’s personalized book collection and the customized toolbox in the automotive room, but just before Alicia Vikander’s hand-beaded Oscars dress—you’ll find a Supreme x LV skateboard, packed just as carefully as a 1913 picnic set, in a red Vuitton trunk.