By  on May 30, 2011

BEIJING — Louis Vuitton brought more than 150 years of luxurytravel into the heart of the Chinese capital on Monday, rolling out anextensive trunk-based exhibition at the newly reopened National Museumof China in Tiananmen Square.

“Louis Vuitton Voyages” is themuseum’s third international exhibit, following the openings of a majorGerman show on the Age of Enlightenment and a Peruvian historicalretrospective in the renovated showpiece museum in April.

Topexecutives from the French luxury brand were on hand to unveil the trunkexhibition, a major component of which is a new video installation byChinese contemporary artist Zhan Wang.

“We need to keep aninternal curiosity and appreciate the voyage,” Zhan said of theinspiration for his work, which uses high-speed-capture video tovisualize the origin of the universe through a series of explosions andhurtling rocks.

Elsewhere, glass display cases that appearhoisted by monogrammed hot-air balloons show off iconic Vuitton trunksand travel cases, dating back to 1854. They include everything from19th-century icons to a deluxe iPad travel case.

Chen Lusheng,deputy director of the National Museum of China, noted that the Vuittonexhibition is the museum’s first brand display and “helps us realize ourmission…paying equal attention to history and art.”

The museum,which has rebuffed all interview requests from international mediaabout its reopening after more than three years of renovation and asomewhat dubious past, has maintained an air of mystery about its plans.

Now the world’s largest museum, it boasts state-of-the-artfacilities, but it’s unclear what those will host.

From hiscomments on Monday, Chen hinted that brand-focused shows are likely tobe facet of the museum’s future. Neither he nor Vuitton companyexecutives would give the cost of the exhibition. The German governmentreportedly paid several million dollars, including travel costs andinsurance fees, to stage the Age of Enlightenment display here.

Vuittonchairman and chief executive officer Yves Carcelle said the exhibitionis meant to evoke nostalgia and inspire creativity, harkening back to19th-century travel and Vuitton’s first modern trunks.

“We allhave this old dream and I think the exhibition will allow you to travelthrough time,” he said.

Pietro Beccari, Vuitton’s executivevice president, said Vuitton decided to bring “Voyages” to China not somuch to promote growth in the consumer market, but deepen understandingof the brand among an increasingly sophisticated Chinese clientele.

Chinesecelebrities including actresses Gong Li and Yuan Quan were on hand foran opening ceremony and cocktail reception Monday evening.

“Voyages”will show at the National Museum of China through Aug. 30. Vuittonhinted bringing something even bigger to China next year when thecompany will commemorate its 20th anniversary in China. Becarri saidplans for a grand celebration are under way.

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