Louis Vuitton, A Passion For Creation review – the fine art of branding in Hong Kong

LOUIS VUITTON EXHIBITION REVIEW HONG KONG

The historical roots and modern artistic expression of a luxury brand are revealed at  ‘Louis Vuitton: A Passion For Creation,’ presented as a 3-part series by the Hong Kong Museum of Art.  In the first installment of the exhibition, the story of the brand’s evolution is told through the display of original products and artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries and the new millennium. The show begins quietly, showcasing old original Louis Vuitton pieces that champion form and function. However, soon aspirations are revealed to challenge the limits of brand identity and demonstrate the ever-evolving nature of this luxury name.

'Louis Vuitton: A Passion For Creation' Exhibition Entry, Hong Kong Museum of Art

'Louis Vuitton: A Passion For Creation' Exhibition Entry, Hong Kong Museum of Art

The brand is shown from its humble beginning, when the spirit of travel inspired the original concept for Louis Vuitton. However, a new identity emerges under the art direction of Marc Jacobs, who was appointed in 1997.

The show demonstrates LV’s progression with pieces that reflect modern international urban culture by Takashi Murakami of Tokyo, and Stephen Sprouse, who emerged from the arts scene in New York.  The chosen works on display suggest that Louis Vuitton has grown from its origins as the image of Western sophistication into a reflection of international artistic attitudes, sometimes fantastic or defiant, but always luxurious.

'Panda' by Takashi Murakami, 2003. Fiberglass.

'Panda' by Takashi Murakami, 2003. Fiberglass.

Of particular significance is Murakami’s Panda, made in 2003. The massive multicolored, cartoon-like fiberglass panda appears to be rising out of a classically inspired Louis Vuitton trunk, suggesting the surreal new direction he envisions for the brand. Indeed, Murakami’s vision for the modern Louis Vuitton is a frivolous world, a brightly-colored childish fantasy. In contrast, Marc Jacob’s Spring 2008 interpretation for the brand challenges boundaries with a provocative ‘naughty nurse’ theme, and Stephen Sprouse’s Spring 2001 graffiti-inspired pieces challenge the established high-end identity with defacement.

Louis Vuitton Spring 2008, by Marc Jacobs

Louis Vuitton Spring 2008, by Marc Jacobs

Although this show may first appear to be another form of marketing, it does a fair job of demonstrating the art of creating a powerful brand and the evolution of its identity. It would be over-reaching to say the Louis Vuitton products themselves are presented as special works of art. Instead, the real magic that Louis Vuitton shows is the ability to build off an original concept while not changing its foundation, and continually applying a fresh mystique every few seasons by modeling products after fine art by edgy, of-the-moment artists.  Louis Vuitton is artfully alive and growing, but its roots are still intact.

It is still unknown who exactly came up with the concept for the show. Although the show would have more legitimacy if it was the brainchild of Mr. Tang Hoi-Chui, Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and his associates at the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department, it is unlikely they alone conceived the premise for an exhibition on Louis Vuitton . Who approached whom for this collaboration is unclear, and Art Radar will be investigating the source of the show. In the meantime, however, expect to see commercialism and art continue to merge in the Asian art scene, which like Louis Vuitton, is also alive and growing into something different.

Showing at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, 22 May to 9 August 2009, HKD30 admission.

Other Reviews of Louis Vuitton, A Passion for Creation:

EW/KCE

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