BEIJING — Louis Vuitton brought more than 150 years of luxury travel into the heart of the Chinese capital on Monday, rolling out an extensive trunk-based exhibition at the newly reopened National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square.
This story first appeared in the May 31, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Louis Vuitton Voyages” is the museum’s third international exhibit, following the openings of a major German show on the Age of Enlightenment and a Peruvian historical retrospective in the renovated showpiece museum in April.
Top executives from the French luxury brand were on hand to unveil the trunk exhibition, a major component of which is a new video installation by Chinese contemporary artist Zhan Wang.
“We need to keep an internal curiosity and appreciate the voyage,” Zhan said of the inspiration for his work, which uses high-speed-capture video to visualize the origin of the universe through a series of explosions and hurtling rocks.
Elsewhere, glass display cases that appear hoisted by monogrammed hot-air balloons show off iconic Vuitton trunks and travel cases, dating back to 1854. They include everything from 19th-century icons to a deluxe iPad travel case.
Chen Lusheng, deputy director of the National Museum of China, noted that the Vuitton exhibition is the museum’s first brand display and “helps us realize our mission…paying equal attention to history and art.”
The museum, which has rebuffed all interview requests from international media about its reopening after more than three years of renovation and a somewhat dubious past, has maintained an air of mystery about its plans.
Now the world’s largest museum, it boasts state-of-the-art facilities, but it’s unclear what those will host.
From his comments on Monday, Chen hinted that brand-focused shows are likely to be facet of the museum’s future. Neither he nor Vuitton company executives would give the cost of the exhibition. The German government reportedly paid several million dollars, including travel costs and insurance fees, to stage the Age of Enlightenment display here.
Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Yves Carcelle said the exhibition is meant to evoke nostalgia and inspire creativity, harkening back to 19th-century travel and Vuitton’s first modern trunks.
“We all have this old dream and I think the exhibition will allow you to travel through time,” he said.
Pietro Beccari, Vuitton’s executive vice president, said Vuitton decided to bring “Voyages” to China not so much to promote growth in the consumer market, but deepen understanding of the brand among an increasingly sophisticated Chinese clientele.
Chinese celebrities including actresses Gong Li and Yuan Quan were on hand for an opening ceremony and cocktail reception Monday evening.
“Voyages” will show at the National Museum of China through Aug. 30. Vuitton hinted bringing something even bigger to China next year when the company will commemorate its 20th anniversary in China. Becarri said plans for a grand celebration are under way.