The Louis Vuitton Travel Book collection adds South Africa to its destinations and revisits Paris

  |   16 - 03 - 2016

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In May 2016, Louis Vuitton publishes two new titles in its “Travel Book” collection illustrated by artists from all around the world. It is now the turn of Brecht Evens, young and talented author of graphic novels, to offer a fresh look at the city of Paris. While the painter Liu Xaidong expresses his real experience of South Africa. Exhibitions of original drawings and book signings worldwide will celebrate the launch of these two publications.

The Louis Vuitton “Travel Book” collection is an invitation to real and virtual voyages, enriched by intellectual stimulation and poignant moments. In its pages, the illustrations of renowned artists and promising young talents tell the stories of the cities and countries they have visited, depicting each place’s varied architecture and special light, and recording the passing days and the lives of its people. Heirs of the Louis Vuitton “Carnets de Voyage” collection, which for nearly twenty years captured the urban adventures of a few illustrators and watercolourists, the “Travel Books” offer a new, contemporary vision of travel, exploring both remote wildernesses and cities that never sleep.

The Congolese artist Chéri Samba shows us Paris and the Belgian Brecht Evens gives his interpretation of the city. The American Daniel Arsham presents Easter Island; the Frenchman Jean-Philippe Delhomme New York; and the young Japanese illustrator Natsko Seki, London. Venice is glorified by the celebrated manga master Jirô Taniguchi; Vietnam by Italian Lorenzo Mattotti; the Arctic by Irishman Blaise Drummond; Edinburgh by Floc’h— the most British of Frenchmen; and South Africa by the celebrated Chinese painter Liu Xiaodong. Each artist explores a country previously unknown to them. They confront an unfamiliar place with a viewpoint sharpened by the surprise of the unknown or stimulated by the pleasure of rediscovery.

This vision of a place as a blank, unlined page inspires incisive commentaries that may be narrative, affectionate, satirical or picturesque. Going beyond the pictorial vocation of these travel journals, the collection highlights the rich aesthetic horizons of today’s art. The creative worlds on show are highly diverse: during their travels, these artists from various corners of the world were free to choose their mode of expression and communicated their views of other places through drawing, painting, collage, contemporary art, illustration, cartoons or manga. Some of the original works born of these journeys, whether figurative or more allusive, have been acquired by Louis Vuitton and will join the collection of contemporary art being put together by the company, enriching it with the diversity of viewpoints represented.

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From May 2016, you will discover the original drawings of Brecht Evens at the Galerie Martel in Paris (17 rue Martel, 75010 Paris). The artist was born in 1986 in Hasselt, a Dutch-speaking town in Belgium, Brecht Evens likes to see himself as a comic book artist rather than a painter, simply because he wants to “tell stories that cannot be fitted into a single image” and because he wants “everyone to be able to go home with an album and become engrossed in it”.

The young prodigy was only 22 when he published “The Wrong Place”, based on his diploma project at the Luca School of Arts in Ghent. This was his first published album in France and inaugurated what has become a solid partnership with the publisher Actes Sud. Winner of the Willy Vandersteen prize, and then of the “Audacity Prize” at the Festival d’Angoulême (2011), “The Wrong Place” plays fast and loose with the codes of comics, as do its successors, “The Making Of” and “Panther”.

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Drawing on the heritage of the great masters and inspirational illustrators, from Bruegel the Elder to Ever Meulen, Brecht Evens invents a pictorial language which accumulates textures and layers of material as diverse as watercolour, gouache, Indian ink and colour pencils. Never tamed, his drawing breaks out of the frame, does away with bubbles and expands into densely detailed full pages, riddled with trompe l’oeils and false perspectives. In a state of constant metamorphosis, his world is like him: minimal and teeming, elegant and psychedelic, transparent and dark, figurative and abstract, incredibly free and unquiet.

Evens is a storyteller as suave as he is dangerous (like his character Panther, a princely beast driven by dark desires, who enchants a little girl). As seductive as they are troubling, his fables are exhibited in art galleries (Galerie Martel, Paris) and at the leading festivals (Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême, 2013; Rencontres du 9e art, Aix-en-Provence, 2016). These are drawings we examine the way we might search our own soul. Every time, unfailing attention is needed to pick out the new forms, the new clues as the reader becomes the discoverer of a world that will soon be exclusively theirs. Brecht Evens works slowly, spending hours on paintings and their “accidents” to see what they whisper to him, before continuing with drawings whose end-point he can never foresee.

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Liu Xiaodong is one of China’s foremost contemporary painters. His work, which incorporates film-making techniques, photography and the written word, sensitively engages with and depicts his experiences across uncharted territories and cultures.

He was born in 1963 in the small town of Jincheng in Northeast China, where his parents worked in the local paper-making factory. At the age of 11, rather than focusing on martial arts, his passion at the time, Liu Xiaodong was sent to live with his uncle to develop his artistic talent. He later moved to Beijing, where he attended high school and the affiliated Central Academy of Fine Arts. Today, he is a professor at the Academy.

Social Realism, derivative of mid-19th-century French Realism, was first introduced to China during the Maoist era, and has been widely taught at art schools in mainland China since their post-Revolution re-opening in 1977. Liu Xiaodong’s work is a contemporary take on the Social Realism tradition he studied. With his signature approach of painting in situ, his process resembles performance and social intervention. Deploying elaborate narratives and a powerful presence of locales within his works, his process mimics that of filmmaking, thereby giving his paintings an added dimension.

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His attachment to cinematography isn’t surprising given his long friendship with China’s celebrated sixth generation film-makers, including Jia Zhangke, Zhang Yuan and Wang Xiaoshuai, with whom he has collaborated, as both an actor and artistic director.

His research method is similar to an anthropologist: by immersing himself in the rituals, traditions and cultures of specific locales, Liu Xiaodong creates a dialogue with students and transsexuals, drafted soldiers and migrant workers, religious leaders and restaurant owners. It is through these relationships that he captures a wide range of emotions and senses of both individual and community identity. Cinema, photography and literature are absorbed into his oil paintings as a means of seeing and experiencing the world as it is today: each medium allows him to shift perspectives and develop a deeper understanding of social issues. Through his works, Liu Xiaodong constantly questions the choices and conflicts that arise from sociopolitical unrest; turmoil that is a byproduct of population displacement, environmental degradation, and urban development. It’s a preoccupation that takes him throughout not only China, as in his most recent project to Inner Mongolia, but also to Thailand, Cuba, Austria, Japan, Italy and Britain.

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Liu Xiaodong’s work has been exhibited worldwide. His most important solo shows in the past few years include “Childhood Friends Getting Fat — Moving Image of Liu Xiaodong 1984–2014” at the Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, in 2014; and “Painting as Shooting” at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, in 2015. His work was also applauded at an exhibition of contemporary Chinese art held at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2016.

These two new Travel Books are published in a limited series of 30 copies numbered 1 to 30 available exclusively in a selection of Louis Vuitton stores.
These numbered editions include the Louis Vuitton Travel Book “Paris” and the Louis Vuitton Travel Book “South Africa” in a size of 39 x 26.5 cm, boundin leather and printed on Freelife Vellum.

The limited edition of the Travel Book “Paris” contains an original lithograph by Brecht Evens, printed on Vélin de Rives paper by Atelier Michael Woolworth, Paris, in February 2016. And the limited edition of the Travel Book “South Africa” contains an original lithograph by Liu Xiaodong, printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper by Atelier Michael Woolworth, Paris, in February 2016. The slipcase and leather binding were crafted in the purest tradition at the Opus Manu Factum workshops in Padua. Each copy is hand-signed and numbered by the artist.