Feature: Fashion Meets Art with Bernard Arnault

FOR YEARS, GLOBAL FASHION BRANDS have been pairing up with museum curators to create showcases of culture. Fashion leaders such as Bernard Arnault, François Pinault and Miuccia Prada bring together the art and fashion worlds to craft a culture of luxury. These tastemakers have long supported the cause using their foundations to sustain compelling art projects.

The art news du jour surrounds Bernard Arnault, who has paired up with architectural icon Frank Gehry to build a new museum in Paris. There is no question that Arnault occupies the highest throne in luxury—his empire, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, (LVMH) is behind global luxury brands like Dior Montres, Givenchy, Fendi, Dom Pérignon and De Beers.

A self-made entrepreneur and the world’s fourth richest man, Arnault single-handedly resurrected French chic when he saved beloved Parisian department store Le Bon Marché and revived Louis Vuitton. Arnault captures what he calls “star brands” and re-launches them with a prestige that honors the past and re-invents the future, keeping imagination alive by hand-selecting young, sometimes radical designers. In the case of Louis Vuitton, he passed the reins to Marc Jacobs, who invited artists Takashi Murakami and Stephen Sprouse to graffiti the signature LV logo.

Arnault’s foray into supporting the arts began with publicly advocating art in 1994 with LVMH exhibitions, scholarships and awards. In 2006, EspaceCulturel Louis Vuitton—a place for emerging global artists to show exhibitions—was opened at the top of the Louis Vuitton flagship store on Champs-Élysées in Paris. Art has often appeared in the LV products themselves; American artist Richard Prince’s Nurse Paintings served as the inspiration behind a series of bags for the maison’s Spring 2008 line. For Arnault, the borders of fashion and art, or that of commodities and countries, are not firm. He is a patron of global creation.