, Moscow, Nov 28 – French luxury brand Louis Vuitton has been ordered to remove a giant trunk put up as a publicity stunt on Moscow’s iconic Red Square, an associated department store said Wednesday, after it triggered outrage among Russians.
The boxy brown suitcase-shaped pavilion, covered with the brand’s signature “LV” stencilling was erected 10 days ago just outside GUM, a 19th century upmarket department store across from the Kremlin that faces the square.
But many tourists and ordinary Russians complained it was blocking views of most landmark sites, the Communist Party was outraged by its proximity to Lenin’s tomb, and preservationists stressed that Red Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“It’s ugly on Red Square,” said one Muscovite, named Tikhon, when asked for his opinion of the installation.
“The trunk hides too much, you can’t see anything.”
On Wednesday, following several days of furious media commentary, the GUM store said it had asked Louis Vuitton to take down the pavilion.
It was never entirely clear who had granted permission as the square is under official jurisdiction of the Kremlin, but a Kremlin source told Russian news agencies that the structure was “not agreed with the presidential administration”.
The Kremlin’s Office of Presidential Affairs, which oversees Red Square, also said it had nothing to do with the trunk.
“The GUM (store) dealt with the permission issues. We had nothing to do with it,” spokesman Viktor Khrekov told AFP by telephone.
“Considering the view of some of the public, and the fact that the pavilion’s size has surpassed the agreed parameters, we told Louis Vuitton about the need to immediately dismantle the pavilion,” GUM said on its website.
The formal street address of both the Lenin Mausoleum and the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, the Red Square is by far the most heavily policed spot in Russia.
The two-storey trunk, measuring nine metres in height by 30 metres in length (30 feet by 100 feet) and bathed in the same dramatic lighting at night as the nearby cathedral, was designed to house an exhibit about travellers who had used the brand’s luggage in the past.
After its planned opening on December 2, the exhibit’s proceeds were to go to the “Naked Hearts” children’s foundation of Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who invited everyone to attend the “unique event” in a promotional video.
Vodianova is also in a relationship with Antoine Arnault, who is the son of Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of the LVMH group which owns the Louis Vuitton brand.
No ‘official’ orders to dismantle it
Some media viewed the trunk as a symbol of modern Russia where corruption has made anything possible — even putting up giant luxury advertisements on the symbolic square without asking Muscovites — and nobody would be held responsible.
A Louis Vuitton spokesman in Paris said “we haven’t received any official orders to take down” the stunt trunk.
Moscow City Hall officials told Interfax that organisers were preparing to dismantle the installation, with the head of advertisement department Vladimir Chernikov calling it a “mistake”.
Late Wednesday, workers were putting up posters on the fence around the trunk, warning people about the beginning of dismantling works.
A few Russians, however, said they did not mind the installation because it added a quirky element to the otherwise somewhat gloomy location.
“In Russia, they want to always forbid everything. We are neither light nor creative, and have no imagination,” said tourist Yelena.
“If we had all that, we could have allowed ourselves a Vuitton.”