Louis Vuitton's seven deadly sins

Artist Barnaby Barford on bringing lust and sloth to Louis Vuitton's new townhouse

Fashion Q+A
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Detail of 'Lust' by Barnaby Barford, 2013 Barnaby Barford, 2013

A spiraling glass elevator transports the customer on a journey of elegance at Louis Vuitton's new three-flour store inside London's Selfridges. Complementing the collection of leather goods, menswear and womenswear are specially commissioned artworks by Barnaby Barford, Hayakawa Katsumi and Bumpo Teppei. Ceramic sculptor Barford's works are based on his original series Seven Deadly Sins: here he discusses how his work reflects the human condition through the use of delicate kitsch porcelain and mirrors. 

Louis Vuitton's new townhouse, Selfridges
Louis Vuitton's new townhouse, Selfridges French maids at the opening of Louis Vuitton's townhouse in Selfridges, London

Dazed Digital: Why do you choose to work with ceramics as a material? 

Barnaby Barford: Ceramics is a relatively unexplored medium in the world of contemporary art. We are all very comfortable with it as a material; we eat off it everyday, we go to the loo on it, we urinate into it, we decorate our houses with it. People don't often expect to be challenged by it. I also feel it has an innate beauty, I love its durability, it's shininess, it's surface – it also has a fragility. I have a healthy irreverence for the material; on one hand I understand everything about it and on the next I am able to dismiss or subvert it. It seems like a safe or quaint material so I think all of these things combined enables me to challenge people’s perceptions with it. 

DD: How important is humour in your work?

Barnaby Barford: Humour is a very important emotion. It plays such a huge role in our lives, without it what would the world be? Again it is something that is not prevalent in contemporary art. The work is generally funny, but I think a lot of people finish there; they think they’ve got the piece. It’s not about getting the joke; it’s about the joke leaving you open to what the piece is about. The humour takes down your barriers, it’s used as a tactic to disarm you, to deliver a message or an idea. I don't necessarily start out with the intention of making humourous work, I start with subject matter that is quite serious, it is through my interpretation of these things that they become satirised.

Sloth by Barnaby Barford, 2012
Sloth by Barnaby Barford, 2012 Barnaby Barford, 2012

DD: Did you draw on Louis Vuitton's own rich history for this commission? 

Barnaby Barford: How can one not. The company as you say has such a rich history, they make such beautiful things and have a unique status. I wanted to do something to reflect this beauty.

DD: What experience did you want to provide the Louis Vuitton customer? 

Barnaby Barford: I wanted to create a harmonious and beautiful series of sculptures that were indefinable, intriguing and ambiguous. I don't want to take away from the setting but want to enhance the experience, bringing something unexpected to the viewers.

Detail of 'Sloth' by Barnaby Barford, 2012
Detail of 'Sloth' by Barnaby Barford, 2012 Barnaby Barford, 2012
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