His challenge was how to interpret the iconic brand in an authentic, artful way; how to introduce a store in a neighborhood tilted toward both commerce and creativity.
Eight gallons of paint and 15 brushes later, witness the façade of the new Louis Vuitton store in the Design District a watercolor veil of teals, pinks and purples by the celebrated graffiti writer.
Louis Vuitton commissioned Marquis Lewis, known as RETNA, to create an original work on the buildings exterior walls, a first for the luxury brand. He delivered with a distinctly Miami palette and reinterpreted the Louis Vuitton name in his signature hieroglyphics, a style informed by ancient global cultures.
Using their stores exterior as a canvas for street art is exceptional and truly inspiring for me as an artist, says RETNA, 33, who also designed a complementary scarf to be sold on store shelves.
Drawn to the energy and vibrancy of gang graffiti, RETNA a name adopted from a Wu-Tang Clan track picked up his first spray can at 9 years old. He spent his formative years perfecting the art of graffiti, painting freeway overpasses and bridges throughout his native Los Angeles.
RETNAs art form is complex, wrought with stories, and almost always including his own alphabet, born of a hybrid of global influences: Incan, Egyptian, Asian, Hebrew and Arabic and Native American visual writings, hieroglyphic and ink calligraphy.
It wasnt long before the art world took notice. Last year, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles featured RETNAs work in its Art in the Streets exhibit. Calling RETNAs work fresh and effortless, MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch compared the artist to a great jazz musician who improvises within a framework.
RETNA is currently showing an exhibit of paintings, works on paper and a site-specific installation at the Michael Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles.
Here in Miami, his newest creation celebrates the arrival of Louis Vuitton in the Design District.
Louis Vuitton opened Friday in a temporary store; it will be replaced by a permanent location in the neighborhood in 2014.
We are thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with RETNA, an artist whose work blurs the lines between beauty and edge, said Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America. The Design District, an area pulsing with artistic, innovative and creative energy, is a natural home for Louis Vuitton and we look forward to sharing RETNAs extraordinary work with the neighborhood.
The label, founded in 1854, has almost always blurred the lines between art, fashion and design, working with artists across disciplines.
When Marc Jacobs became the brands artistic director in 1997, he invited contemporary artists to collaborate, among them Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami and the late Stephen Sprouse, who all treated the iconic monogram as muse. But its not just purses, bags and accessories that have received the artistic treatment: The canvas has taken the form of site-specific installations, store window designs and art exhibits.
On the eighth day of RETNAs project, in the whirl of painting, he claimed a seat on steps inside the Moore Building and chatted with The Miami Herald.
Q. So, you get the opportunity to create a mural for the façade for Louis Vuitton. What is your inspiration?