A Louis Vuitton bag did David Little '85 in. No, it did not send him into a spiral of debt or cause him to rob his local department store to get his hands on one.
Instead, it inspired him to create a photography exhibit, "Embarrassment of Riches: Picturing Global Wealth," at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) to showcase the excess and inanity of luxury worldwide.
It was not just a bag that ignited such a passion in Little. According to a feature on the exhibit in the September issue of W magazine, Little was also struck by an advertisement for Louis Vuitton featuring former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. To top it off, the ad was shot in front of the remains of the Berlin Wall.
Little turned his initial shock at the advertisement into a 20-piece exhibit at the MIA, where he is a curator and Head of the Department of Photography and New Media. MIA's website states the central question of the exhibit as: "How have photographers pictured and examined the new economy?".
Little collected pieces for his exhibit from various galleries and art shows around the world. On one of his trips to New York City, he selected a photograph taken by fellow Bowdoin alum Abelardo Morell '71.
"When I visited his gallery in New York, I saw his two works on currency and thought they were perfect for the show," said Little.
Morell's photographs have appeared in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and now the MIA. The exhibit includes his work "39 Gold Bars", a photograph taken in 2008 of a stack of gold bars worth $15,372.742.
"Money is such an interesting subject in the minds of all of us," said Morell. "It occupies such an odd place between matter and symbol. I traveled to Switzerland to find a bank with a lot of gold. In a way, I wanted to make a photograph of gold bars as if a child might shape them."
Another one of Little's favorite pieces from the exhibit is Luc Delahaye's photo "A Lunch at the Belvedere", which Little describes as "subtle but powerful."
The photo was taken at a meeting of the World Economic Forum and was adjusted by the artist to resemble Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."
"Embarrassment of Riches" will run at the MIA until January 2, 2011.After that, it will travel to various museums around the country and, possibly, internationally.
"There is real interest in the show and subject," said Little. "W covered the show in September and now several major magazines will cover it in Europe in the coming months. I also hope to publish an essay on the exhibition."
Essay writing was central to Little's time at Bowdoin, where he majored in art history and minored in government and visual arts.
Little has given back to the College by speaking at panels, such as one this summer featuring alumni museum and gallery professionals.
"Bowdoin helped provide a broad understanding of culture and politics and encouraged in-depth and independent research and writing," said Little. "These skills help with any subject."
After Bowdoin, Little worked in the publishing industry, then went to graduate school at Williams College.
He received his Ph.D in art history from Duke University.
"Key to my career path was teaching in the galleries at the MoMA," said Little.
He later served as the Director of Adult and Academic Programs at MoMA.
Little's career as both a curator and a head of a department allows him to combine his respect of history with his desire to display innovative works.
"I love spending time with living artists and the creative people," said Little. "Most of all I love new art and ideas; they truly invigorate one's experience and life. The field keeps you young, always thinking and looking, and forging ahead."