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Louis Vuitton suitcase-shaped pavilion has to leave Red Square after public uproar

November 28, 2013, 14:51 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Bobylev

MOSCOW, November 28. /ITAR-TASS/. An exhibition pavilion disguised as a huge Louis Vuiton suitcase, which mushroomed in Moscow’s Red Square several days ago, has been in the focus of public outcry this week. Against this backdrop even the breaking news a large group of Islamic extremists was detained and a large amount of weapons and explosives seized in Moscow on Wednesday faded into background, although it might seem that it had posed a far greater threat than a controversial project by the world-famous French fashion house. The net effect is the pavilion will be disassembled and the country’s parliament will consider a special bill setting the rules of using historical sites.

As soon as the Louis Vuitton pavilion cropped up, many politicians, public figures, and art critics were quick to offer angry comments in protest against what they slammed as defilement of such a sacred place as Moscow’s Red Square. At the foot of the red-brick Kremlin wall and inside the wall itself there lie the ashes of the country’s heroes and many leading politicians. One of the key architectural features of the square is the tomb of the 1917 revolution leader Vladimir Lenin. The pavilion disguised as a huge suitcase nine meters tall and 30 meters wide is roughly equivalent to Lenin’s mausoleum in size. Controversial art dealer Marat Gelman has interpreted the firm’s logo (LV) as a hint at Vladimir Lenin’s initials.

State Duma members from the Communist Party were the first to ring the alarm bell. A secretary of its Central Committee, Sergei Obukhov, has told the media: “I am surprised. I have always thought the current authorities are aware of what Red Square really is. Since the 1930s its function has been sacral. It is the site of military march-pasts and other special ceremonies, but what is most important, it is the site of national shrines, of the graves of the nation’s heroes.”

Liberal Democrat Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, too, has criticized the Louis Vuitton suitcase-shaped pavilion in Red Square as very inappropriate. He urged the organizers of the exhibition the pavilion was expected to host to move it to one of Moscow’s parks.

“Such projects should never be launched without a prior discussion by experts and the city’s public. It is very wrong to let anyone’s arbitrary decisions to change the image of Red Square or other historical sites. The Louis Vuitton suitcase row is a reason enough to establish a special cultural heritage council under the Moscow Mayor’s Office, the leader of the Architectural Supervision movement, Konstantin Mikhailov, a member of the Civic Chamber, has told Itar-Tass in an interview.

Some disagree, though.

“Red Square has always been a site of market fairs and festive outdoor events. I find Louis Vuitton’s idea rather amusing,” the Russian government’s representative in the highest judicial instances, Mikhail Barshchevsky, said in a televised interview.

The suitcase-shaped pavilion affair has a detective side to it. It has turned out that the exhibition’s organizers have never received any permission to hold it in Red Square. The Moscow Mayor’s Office disclaims any involvement, because Red Square is within the range of competencies of the federal bodyguard service FSO, which is responsible for the security of the country’s leadership. In the meantime, the presidential property department, the FSO, and the Culture Ministry have said they have not issued permissions to the placement of the controversial facility.

According to the original announcement, the exhibition was timed for the 120th anniversary of the GUM department store, overlooking Red Square. GUM management has been able to offer only some very inarticulate explanations to the effect that the pavilion’s placement had been agreed with the authorities.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin issued orders for dismantling the pavilion. However, several hours later the Russian presidential press-secretary said the Kremlin had given no written instructions on that score, and that the media were quoting verbal instructions by an anonymous official.

On Thursday, the federal service of state registration, cadastre and cartography ruled the leasing of the plot of land in Red Square to the organizers was illegal. The suitcase’s owners were ordered in written form to start disassembly work within twenty four hours.

The Louis Vuitton pavilion was to house a display or same-name road bags many world celebrities had used for travelling. The show was to last from December 2, 2013 through January 19, 2014. Possibly, the organizers were unaware that during the New Year and Christmas holidays Red Square sees large crowds of Russian and foreign guests and that the pavilion would spoil the look of many historical places of interest.

The exhibition’s organizers had promised that the money raised would go to the sick children’s charity foundation Naked Hearts. The foundation’s chairperson, fashion model Natalya Vodyanova, wrote in Facebook: “It is to be hoped the exhibition will not be cancelled, but just moved elsewhere.”

When the row peaked, Russia’s Civic Chamber came out with an initiative of adopting a special legal act that would set the rules of using historical and cultural sites.

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