MOSCOW, Russia — Workers in orange jackets and cranes were busy today dismantling a giant suitcase erected by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA in the middle of Moscow’s Red Square after it sparked protests.
The world’s largest maker of luxury goods bowed to demands to remove the replica of a wooden travel trunk adorned in Louis Vuitton’s trademark pattern and logo that was bigger than Lenin’s tomb. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the installation had offended people, while denying a report in the state-run RIA Novosti news service that the Kremlin had ordered it to be taken away.
The pavilion, which commemorates the 120th anniversary of the adjacent GUM mall where Louis Vuitton has its flagship Russian store, is 30 meters (33 yards) long and 9 meters tall, according to the Paris-based company. The mausoleum where Bolshevik leader Lenin’s mummified body is on display nearby is 24 meters long and 12 meters tall.
“We have long-standing and close ties with Russia,” Michael Burke, the chairman and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton, said in an e-mailed statement. “The aim of the exhibition is to further strengthen those ties and we will work in this direction in the coming months.”
The French company had initially resisted an order by GUM to dismantle the exhibit, which was intended to raise funds for a charity run by Russian model Natalia Vodianova, the Naked Heart Foundation. Vodianova is the partner of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Chairman Bernard Arnault’s son, Antoine, who runs the company’s Berluti menswear division.
Louis Vuitton said it was looking for another location for the pavilion.
A lawmaker from Putin’s United Russia party, Alexander Sidyakin, lodged a complaint over the structure, saying it obscured views of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin towers and may inconvenience Muscovites and tourists alike.
The installation is of “unreasonably gigantic size” and violates the architectural feel of the entire complex, Sidyakin said in his complaint to the antitrust watchdog.
The exhibit is designed to celebrate Louis Vuitton’s long history of supplying Russian customers and the chest itself is a giant replica of one ordered by Prince Vladimir Orlov in the early 20th century, according to the company.
By Henry Meyer; Editors: Alan Crawford, Eddie Buckle, Balazs Penz