Move over, Lenin: Louis Vuitton 'trunk' occupies Red Square

Muscovites are none too pleased about a 30-foot-tall, 100-foot-long Louis Vuitton pavilion blotting out familiar features like Lenin's tomb.

AFP video
Visitors to Red Square in the past few days have found themselves confronted by a giant Louis Vuitton trunk.

It could almost be a plot line from a story by surrealist 19th century Russian author Nikolai Gogol.

Visitors to Red Square in the past few days have found themselves confronted by a giant Louis Vuitton trunk, seemingly perfect in every detail and so big that it dominates Moscow's most iconic space and almost blots out other familiar features such as Lenin's tomb, St. Basil's cathedral, and the Spassky Tower.

And, like the bizarre oddities that crop up in Mr. Gogol's slightly absurd but profoundly perceptive tales, like The Nose and The Overcoat, the trunk has already prompted a great deal of consternation, confusion, indignation, and controversy.

The huge structure – some 100 feet long and 30 feet tall – is actually a replica of a Louis Vuitton trunk supplied a century ago to Russian Prince Vladimir Orlov, a member of the Czar's family. It's meant to house an exhibition of Vuitton luggage down through the ages that will run for most of December and January. Vuitton has a shop in Red Square's famous GUM department store, but no one is quite sure who authorized it to build the giant pavilion.

"Red Square is the sacred heart of the Russian state. There are some symbols that should not be trivialized or besmirched," raged Communist Party parliamentarian Sergei Obukhov, according to Russian news media.

"I am amazed that the presidential administration and the Federal Guard Service, both of which control the territory of Red Square, have permitted this outlandish display," Mr. Obukhov said.

Alexander Sidyakin, a Duma deputy with the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, says he's lodged a complaint with Russia's anti-trust watchdog, asking it to look into whether the gargantuan suitcase violates legislation limiting the size and location of advertisements.

"This surely violates the law on advertising. It's definitely contrary to all our understandings of what is possible, and what is not, on the territory of Red Square," Mr. Sidyakin says.

"Just think, this box is supposed to sit there on Red Square until mid-January! People will come for traditional New Year celebrations, and they won't be able to see St. Basil's or the Spassky Tower because this enormous suitcase is squatting there, blocking out everything.... Also, this brand is a symbol of luxury. They really should have placed it somewhere else, if they had to build it. Not here, not now, and not for such a long time," he says.

Some Russian bloggers have already started having fun with the situation. One photoshopped image that's showing up on Russian social media – and is sure to infuriate Russia's still-numerous communists – shows Louis Vuitton's iconic livery cleverly transposed onto the mausoleum of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin.

Louis Vuitton is promoting the upcoming exhibit as "a reflection of peoples' lives, their physical and poetic journeys."

But the company has yet to officially respond to the controversy their humongous trunk has set off among Muscovites.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.