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PARIS — With today’s opening of the exhibition “Ecritures Silencieuses” (“Silent Writings”), Louis Vuitton is penning a new chapter or two in its own history with art and travel.
At the show’s crux are three inscribed Rongo Rongo tablets from the Polynesian volcanic island of Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island. The sole relics of a history and tradition now lost, replicas of the tablets are making their first appearance outside the Vatican, which became their custodian in 1925.
Using these as-yet-undeciphered glyphs as a point of departure, the show, which runs through Aug. 23, explores the theme of language and the power of image through the work of 15 artists, including Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, Giuseppe Penone, Barbara Kruger, Claude Closky, Idris Khan and Ni Haifeng. Most pieces were selected or adapted from existing works, but a handful — such as sculptures by Penone and Khan, “evolving” works of graffiti by artists such as Sun7 and André, and a video installation in the rotunda by Kruger — are original to this event.
“It’s our most ambitious project to date,” noted exhibition curator and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton art consultant Hervé Mikaeloff. “Usually we present up-and-coming artists. For this show we contacted outstanding established ones, which makes for a truly exceptional gathering.”
Mikaeloff’s own impromptu visit to Easter Island, on a friend’s recommendation, was decisive in shaping the project. There, he met with artist Marco Nereo Rotelli, whose large-scale mosaic is presented in the windows of Vuitton’s flagship on the Rue Bassano. Extensive research into the tablets was followed by six months of negotiations with the Vatican just to glimpse pictures of the replicas.
Created between the 17th and 19th centuries, the tablets are thought to blend writings from Tahiti and Chile, but the deportation of half Easter Island’s population to Peru as slaves, in the mid-1800s, erased all traces of the language and its heritage.