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Luxury houses put history and art on display : Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel and Cartier unveil free exhibits

June 14,2017
French fashion houses attempt to appeal to Korean consumers by holding grand exhibitions showcasing their heritage, like the “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez Louis Vuitton” exhibition currently ongoing at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, top, or exhibitions that highlight the brand’s support for the arts like Cartier’s “Highlights” exhibit, bottom, currently ongoing at the Seoul Museum of Art. [LOUIS VUITTON, CARTIER]
Four French luxury houses - Hermes, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Chanel - have each organized exhibitions in Seoul. But thick wallets won’t be necessary, as the brands are all opening the exhibitions for free and there are no promotional booths or discount events for those looking to shop. According to industry insiders, since relatively new luxury brands are catching the eyes of Korean consumers, the four storied brands are attempting to bring the attention back to them by holding art exhibitions that can emphasize their heritage and deeply rooted design philosophies.

Louis Vuitton’s “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez Louis Vuitton” exhibition that opened its doors to the public on June 7 at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Jung District, central Seoul, managed to win the hearts of Koreans by dedicating an entire section to Korea. Titled “Inspirational Korea,” this section, which is the final stop of the nine part exhibition, acknowledges Korea as one of the inspirations behind the bags and trunks on display.

“It was also of great importance for Louis Vuitton to show its connection to Korea in this exhibition while showing in detail the heritage of the maison” said Jang Mi-jin, a docent at the exhibition.

In this section, there are Louis Vuitton trunks that store Korean traditional instruments like gayageum (traditional zither). According to the French fashion house, the Korean Empire under King Gojong and the fashion house both participated in the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, where they were located side by side in two distinct pavilions, each showing off objects of craftsmanship. Traditional musical instruments were displayed at the fair from the Korean pavilion and after the event, some of them were donated to France. To shed light on the old ties, the trunk was created for the gayageum to show that such “traditional musical instruments created by craftsmen as well as Louis Vuitton products illustrate the refinement of the techniques,” said Jang. The musical instruments come from the Museum of Music at the Philharmonie de Paris.

Among about 1,000 bags and trunks on display at the Seoul exhibition, another eye catching trunk is in this section - a custom-made white trunk that stores a pair of figure skates is owned by Korean figure skating queen Kim Yuna. The exhibition runs until Aug. 27.

Chanel, another admired French fashion house, is also bringing an exhibition to showcase its heritage, titled “Mademoiselle Prive,” to the capital. The exhibit begins on June 23 at the D Museum in Yongsan district, central Seoul. According to the brand, Seoul has been selected as the first Asian destination for the new exhibition that premiered in London in 2015. The exhibition is a rare glimpse into the origins and inspirations that help create Chanel’s iconic collections.

It will take visitors on a visual journey through the world of Chanel including the work of its founder Gabrielle Chanel. The house’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s works will also be on display, revealing how he successfully reinstated haute couture to the fashion brand, as well as a vast number of ready-to-wear collections. The exhibition will run until July 19.

Meanwhile, instead of showing off the brand’s heritage and taking visitors on a journey through the company’s history, two brands, Cartier and Hermes, are continuing to highlight the art patronage projects they’ve been actively sponsoring for decades.

Cartier’s Fondation Cartier pour I’Art Contemporian has brought its exhibition at Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) - the first destination outside of France. The exhibition features about 100 works from its collection created by artists from across the globe. The exhibition runs until Aug. 15.

Hermes is another luxury fashion house known for its active support of the arts. Currently at Atelier Hermes, a contemporary art exhibition space at Maison Hermes in Dosan Park, southern Seoul, a special exhibition has been organized to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the space. According to the fashion house, it’s an exhibition “to shed light on its trajectory of the past decade that it has proactively been engaged in the passion of contemporary artists who allude ‘art as an engaging part of life.’”

Visitors will be able to see works by six Korean artists including Kim Minae, Kim Yunha, Kim Heecheon, Park Kiljong, Baek Kyungho and Yoon Hyangro. The exhibition runs until July 23.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]