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New Portrait of Levi Strauss Has Lots of Layers

To mark the 120th anniversary of the death of Levi Strauss on Monday, The Levi Strauss Museum in his birthplace of Buttenheim, Germany unveiled a new original portrait of the co-creator of the modern jean made by denim artist Ian Berry who was named to the Rivet 50 in 2019.

The museum is in Bavaria in the house where Strauss was born as Leob Strauss in 1829. He spent the first 18 years of his life there before emigrating to America and inventing the now iconic garment.

The museum commissioned the portrait from Berry, who has been creating lifelike artwork from collaged used denim scraps for more than 20 years. He also recently expanded his work to include documentary filmmaking.

He previously had a show of his work at the museum in 2020. Tanja Roppelt, curator of the museum, said, ‘‘In 2020, we hosted the extremely successful exhibition ‘Art in Denim’ with Ian Berry, which attracted people from all over Germany to Buttenheim despite the pandemic. We’re very excited to have him back with us and to unveil this piece of the ‘jeans inventor.’”

Berry was on hand to reveal the work, an oval portrait of the famed jeansmaker, which will hang permanently in the museum.

The piece is also part of the buildup to the 150th anniversary of Levi’s famous 501 jean next year. Strauss created it with Jacob Davis and patented their pants that were strengthened by rivets. On May 20, 1873, together they applied for US Patent No. 139,121 for “Improvements in fastening pocket openings.” This trademark feature became Registered U.S. Trade Mark No. 1,139,254 thereby creating the Levi’s brand.

The Levi Strauss Museum Jeans was founded in Sept. 2000 after extensive renovation of the small half-timbered 17th century house. Modern, interactive presentations inform visitors about Strauss and his brand. Berry helped the museum celebrate the 20th anniversary in 2020 with his exhibition. It also introduced a sculpture of Levi Strauss by the German artist Rainer Kurka at the time.