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Friday, February 25, 2011

Louis Vuitton and Murakami, Hermes, Calvin, Obama , Lanvin and Window Displays

Maison Hermes Window Display_Tokujin Yoshioka 
One of Hermès' most recognized products today is its signature silk scarves. The modern Hermès scarf measures 90 cm × 90 cm, weighs 65 grams and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons.All Hermès scarves are hand printed using multiple silk screens and the hems are all hand-stitched. Forty-three is the highest number of screens used for one scarf to date (the charity scarf released in 2006), one screen for each color on the scarf. Scarf motifs are have ranged from the germane (such as the French Revolution or French Cuisine) to the unexpected (such as the flora and fauna of Texas).[5][6] Two scarf collections per year are released, along with reprints of older designs and limited editions. Since 1937, Hermès has produced over 2,500 designs, with the horse motifs being particularly famous and popular.[3][broken citation] Production of scarves has ranged from 250,000 in 1978 to 500,000 in 1986 to 1.2 million in 1989.[5] During the holiday season in its Paris boutiques, on average, one scarf is sold every 20 seconds.[6] Besides being known for its texture and design, Hermès's scarves have another unique trait that is unprecedented; that is its scarves made with a scent. However, many generally feature equestrian motifs as well as other symbols of prestige like coats of arms, banners, and military insignia.
The per-pound cost of a scarf today is approximately US$1,965.00 (compared to a pound of steel at $0.19). New scarves still account for a significant percentage of Hermès's turnover. The company also offers two collections a year of cashmere/silk blend scarves.
So popular are the scarves[6] that some find themselves made into pillows or otherwise as framed wall-hangings.[6] Famous lovers of the Hermès scarf include Queen Elizabeth II who wore one in a portrait for a British postage stamp in the 1950s, Grace Kelly who used an Hermès scarf as a sling for her broken arm), Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve, and Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis. Sharon Stone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hillary Clinton, Mariah Carey, Elle McPherson, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, and Giuliana Rancic have all been photographed wearing the scarves. Notoriously, Ms. Stone used one for a bondage scene in the film Basic Instinct. More recently,

 Calvin Klein "Pillow Talk Cases"_Jonathan Horowitz

Lanvin received international as well as national press in the United States in May 2009 when Michelle Obama was photographed wearing a pair of Lanvin sneakers of suede, with grosgrain ribbon laces and metallic pink toe caps while volunteering at a Washington, D.C. food bank. The sneakers were reported to have cost $540.

 Lanvin Window Display in Paris

The Aphifera Window Installation for Selfridges Store
Matthew Plummer Fernandez

Louis Vuitton 5th Ave Store in New York
Takashi Murakami

When these two giants met, things went wild. The first collection of bags Murakami designed for the fashion house (at the order of creative director, Marc Jacobs) rejuvenated the brand–Louis Vuitton wasn’t just high-end French couture anymore, it was kawaii!3lvmurbags460 Everyone loved the collection, and the West took notice–suddenly, Murakami and his Superflatness became a big name, and not just for those in the Art scene. In fact, Murakami was worried that his initial association with LV would mislead his new found fans into thinking he was simply a hand bag designer. In a TIME Magazine article, he said that he was going to take a break from the commercial and re-establish himself as a fine artist. This reaction is strange, considering that Murakami widely promotes his art as commercial–as only commercial–as if there was no difference between the two. He even included a mini Louis Vuitton boutique in his traveling  ©Murakami show, which toured around the US. It’s this idea of superflat and commercial consumption as indistinguishable that seems, well, a little more complicated than that.
Superflat & Superfashion
Superflat & Superfashion
Truly, there are darker meanings behind much of Murakami’s work, along with the artists he’s recruited to be a part of his superflat movement. Though his art, and this collaboration with Louis Vuitton, seem like Warholian simulacrum (a meaningless, fun copy of something that isn’t good or bad)it really isn’t ambiguous at all, and that’s what makes the art complicated. Either it’s subversive, or it’s some kind of unfunny perpetuation of Japan-as-empty, because, well, it’s the cuteness, not the meaning, that sells—and boy, does it sell!
Empty or Full?
What appears to be especially troubling about this Murakami/Vuitton collaboration is this idea  (proposed by Marc Jacobs) that Louis Vuitton provides the “history” and Murakami provides the image that’s overlaid. Indeed, Murakami didn’t design a new LV logo—as that would misplace (or entirely remove) what is signified by the logo—“classic”, “French”, “cultured”, “wealthy” etc. Murakami’s addition, one could argue, is so successfully connected with such a loaded logo because it fails to signify anything other than “cute!”murakami_opening_bk_10 We’ve encountered cultural oderlessness before, and this certainly fits into that pattern of things that are vaguely Japanese; and while Jacobs and the brand didn’t try to undermine Murakami’s Japanese-ness, it’s not a big part of the collaboration. This is like superflat gone way, way too flat—there’s nothing political left, nothing serious left. To return to that TIME magazine article, perhaps Murakami was concerned that the West cannot recognize the politics behind his superflat movement as easily as, say, a Japanese audience can—and that this artist, who claims he doesn’t distinguish between art and commerce, well, really—he does. There is thought behind superflatness, even though most take his work as psychedelic eye candy.
Real eye candy
Real eye candy
If we look at the advertisements Murakami created to “celebrate” his six year collaboration with Louis Vuitton, there are some striking aspects that can lead you to think, well, maybe it’s subversive (on Murakami’s part) after all? Is Murakami playing a trick on all of is, is he laughing all the way to the bank? Let’s look at one: What’s really going on here? The panda physically literally consumes the girl, and then she falls into this insane fantasy of color and surface—the entire commercial perpetuates this idea of Japan-as-fantasy, this Japan-for-kids, and, much more importantly, this Japan-as-entirely-unreadable. If we buy this Murakami-Vuitton bag, do we get to consume the girl (read: Japanese mystique, Japanese cute) entirely? By owning a Murakami bag, do we own a part of this fantasy? Yes, we do—at least, that’s what they want us to think. Is this a good thing?
Indeed, UCLA Sociologist Adrian Farell, who has spent time studying the Murakami “phenomenon”, has this to say about the idea of Murakami “tricking” or “playing a joke on” the Western consumer:
Murakami self-consciously sees his art as an inversion of Orientalism. Like others of his generation (he was born in 1963), he grew up obsessed with America’s power over Japan, and with bitter memories of the wartime experience. There is a kind of “passive aggressive” attitude to the West in the work. He is, in fact, a Japanese nationalist, and as such sees his art as a way of playing up to Western stereotypes of Japan, of fooling Western tastes. There is something quite cynical about how he talks about his art strategy to a Japanese audience.
Truly, this attitude must bleed over—there must be some of this passive-aggressive sentiment within Murakami’s work with Louis Vuitton—even though it seems like he respects the fashion house, perhaps he sees it as a double-dupe: not only is he making millions of dollars defacing this glimmering stereotype of Western wealth, he’s also acquiring millions of Western fans who cannot understand what he’s actually doing, making them, not Japan, the infantile, underdeveloped ones. Yet, how successful is this as a political comment (or really, attack) on Western attitudes towards Japan, if most of Murakami’s critiques go unnoticed? Murakami has put himself in a culturally difficult position here, and it will be interesting to see if he ever clearly positions himself against the West. murprevf547a1ef
In the end, does this (ongoing!) collaboration with Louis Vuitton undermine the artistic (political, social) “legitimacy” of superflatness, or does it work perfectly with it? Is the essence of superflat supposed to hide further meaning from the Western consumer, making the real meaning only accessible to the Japanese? These discrepancies are indeed troubling, and sooner or later Murakami either going to have to fully admit or fully deny the meaning behind his art work, or else this simulacrum will become responsible for not only flattening “art”, but also contemporary Japanese culture.
Do people like Murakami (arguably the one of the most famous modern Japanese artists) add to the “fullness” of Japan, or is it the opposite? Is everything truly superflat? If superflat art lacks meaning (or denies meaning), what does this say about contemporary Japan? Is this culture something that can be bought and sold to any consuming–can we own “Japaneseness”–or is this all just a big joke?
Do you think there is something subversive about the Murakami Louis Vuitton advertisement? Or is it simply more of the same?
  Takashi Murakami and Louis Vuitton Controversy There's an interesting article over at the LA Times on art, manufacturing, brands, and people that seem to enjoy being in court.

"They may not have realized it, but the folks who snapped up as much as $4-million worth of limited-edition prints by artist Takashi Murakami two years ago at the special Louis Vuitton boutique inside his exhibition at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art apparently were getting nicely mounted handbags -- minus the snaps and straps." LA Times

Basically, a collector didn't like the fact that his Takashi Murakami Louis Vuitton prints were just left over Louis Vuitton material strapped to canvas stretchers.

I can't see a problem with it. Takashi Murakami is like Japan's Damien Hirst and he doesn't hide the fact that he's a branding machine in the business of selling products. The exhibition at the The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles was called "Copyright Marakami" which should have given the collector some idea of what the artist is all about.

You don't expect a Damien Hirst spot painting to be painted by Damien Hirst.

Publish Post

Bergdorf Goodman_Post-It Art

Bergdorfs windows are some of the most inventive ever.  This use of the mundane sticky as art form takes creativity to the next level in an unprecedented way. Few window displays can grab ones attention with such a simple gesture.
- Inson Wood