The outer facade of Gucci’s Gaok, which was created in collaboration with Korean artist Park Seung-mo. (Gucci Korea)
When Gucci’s Gaok, the Italian high-end fashion brand’s second flagship store in South Korea, opened in Hannam-dong in late May, the store was the talk of the town not only for its luxury lineup but also the building itself in the posh Seoul neighborhood.
The building facade features a nature-inspired artwork titled “Hwan (Illusion)” created by Korean artist Park Seung-mo. The outer walls of the building are fitted with more than 100 panels of overlapping stainless steel wires that depict a landscape of trees. When lit up, it looks as if the imagery is directly projected onto the walls with a projector.
“When you put your hand in front of the projector, you will find out that the image is not real. I coined the term ‘Hwan (Illusion)’ as the subject of this work,” Park said in a video about his work. “I started this artwork in response to the growing pervasiveness of environmental pollution. I felt compelled to shed light on the value of the environment with the motif of a forest and trees.”
Luxury fashion houses, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermes and Cartier, are presenting their art collections or collaborations with artists, some of them having steadily promoted contemporary art for years.
“Luxury brands’ collaboration with the art industry seems to appeal particularly to Korean people as they are sensitive to new trends and seek something fun. If those exhibitions and art collaborations go viral on social media, that leads to a great interest in the brands,” said Kim Bo-hee, a professor at Konkuk University.
“Luxury brands can have different impacts by showcasing their art collections or collaborations with artists. When it comes to exhibitions of their own art collections, they can showcase their heritage and tradition through the historically valuable artworks that they have collected over a long time,” she said.
It could also help shape a more favorable perception and lead to a better understanding of the high price tag among their existing fans and broader audiences including younger people, she added.
Installation view of “Gerhard Richter 4900 Colors: Selected Work from the Collection” at the Espace Louis Vuitton in Seoul (Espace Louis Vuitton)
Espace Louis Vuitton Seoul is holding an exhibition of its collection of works by German contemporary artist Gerhard Richter. “Gerhard Richter 4900 Colors: Selected Work from the Collection,” which runs through July 18, aims to “mount international projects and make them accessible to a broader public,” the fashion house said.
Inaugurated in 2019, the Espace Louis Vuitton Seoul previously showed another collection from the Fondation Louis Vuitton, an art museum in Paris supported by the brand, in an exhibition titled “Alberto Giacometti: Selected Work from the Collection.”
“Since 1991, when Jean-Paul Claverie joined us, LVMH has become one of France’s leading patrons of the arts, providing extensive support for cultural heritage programs and youth outreach initiatives, as well as humanitarian actions. We very early began exploring the idea of a foundation, an institution that would tangibly express our commitment to art and culture,” Chief Executive of LVMH Bernard Arnault wrote in a statement when the contemporary art museum opened in 2014. The museum will be donated to the city of Paris in 50 years.
Located inside the Maison Hermes in Seoul, Atelier Hermes has been supporting Korean artists through exhibition programs. The Atelier’s programs include the Hermes Foundation Missulsang, a biennial prize awarded to emerging Korean artists. Most recently, it hosted Park Joo-yeon’s solo exhibition titled “Other Feathers.”
“Park has explored the notion of otherness, drawing on her own experience of living abroad since her teenage years. The exhibition brings together ancient and mythological references in a hybrid environment that blends sound, sculpture, drawing and writing,” Atelier Hermes noted.
Installation view of “Other Feathers” at Atelier Hermes in Seoul (Fondation d’entreprise Hermes, Kim Sang-tae)
"Since 2010, the fashion trend has been vague and diversified, and many luxury brands’ role as a vanguard of fashion trends has been under threat. Luxury brands’ core role is no longer that of simply leading the fashion trend,” said Lee Su-jin, a professor at Dongduk Women’s University. Art has been an inspiration for the luxury brands experiencing an existential crisis, as they turned to art to build their brand image as well as their concept, Lee noted.
Foundation Cartier also showed its own exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art in May 2017, “Highlights: La Collection de la Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain” in partnership with the museum. The exhibition showcased some 1,500 works by more than 300 artists from around the world.
“It is the most perfect expression of cultural patronage as it has been practiced by the Maison Cartier. While some of the works were specially commissioned, they are all linked to the Foundation Cartier’s exhibition program and to the ongoing relationships with the artists,” Herve Chandes, general director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, wrote in the exhibition catalog.
Not all luxury brands have been successful with their exhibitions here. When Christian Dior showed its art exhibition “Lady Dior as Seen by” at its flagship store in Seoul in 2016, “Korean Female” by Korean artist Lee Wan fueled criticisms that it portrayed Korean women as materialistic and morally loose.
Dior’s Seoul office offered a public apology and said it was dropping the photograph “Korean Woman” from the exhibition. The luxury brand has not hosted an exhibition in Seoul since the controversy.
By Park Yuna (email@example.com