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Louis Vuitton causes controversy in Russia's Red Square

Louis Vuitton, a subsidiary of the Arnault family's luxury-goods giant LVMH, has ruffled feathers in Moscow this week by installing a giant monogrammed suitcase mere metres from the mummified body of former leader Vladimir Lenin.
The giant trunk in Moscow's Red Square
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©Press Association

Louis Vuitton, a subsidiary of the Arnault family's luxury-goods giant LVMH, has ruffled feathers in Moscow this week by installing a giant monogrammed suitcase mere metres from the mummified body of former leader Vladimir Lenin.

The replica of its iconic travelling trunk will house a temporary museum, due to open in just under a week, which will document the company’s 120-year history.

But the installation has been perceived as a symbol of excessive western consumerism, out of step with its location in the Red Square – a location integral to Russia's communist history.

The construction is just next door to Lenin's Mausoleum, where visitors can view the embalmed body of the communist revolutionary in its glass sarcophagus, and has blocked views of the onion-domed Saint Basil's Cathedral (pictured, right).

The square was frequently used for military parades during communist-era Russia, and was the focal point for national celebrations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sergei Obukhov, a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, said: "This is a sacred place for the Russian state. There are some symbols that cannot be trivialised or denigrated."

The trunk is embellished with the Russian flag, and Louis Vuitton said the trunk is a model of one once owned by Prince Wladimir Orloff, and features his monogram – P.W.O.

Orloff was a shadowy figure close to the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, who was ousted and then killed by the revolutionaries. Orloff escaped to the US, and was rumoured to have links to the KGB.

According to Reuters, one member or parliament has called for an investigation as to whether the installation has violated the country's advertising laws.

The exhibition's organisers said they had received all the required paperwork to build the trunk, but according to Reuters, various government agencies responsible for Russia's heritage sites have denied they signed-off any of the permits.

The exhibition, titled The Soul of Travel, will run from 2 December until mid-January, and the proceeds will be donated to children's charity the Naked Heart Foundation.

The charity was founded by Russian model Natalia Vodianova, girlfriend of Antoine Arnault, the son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault. 

Images copyrighted to Press Association/ James G. Howes

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