23 July 2008

It's Quilted

In 2005, Chanel's quilted handbag turned 50. And how did Mr. Lagerfeld choose to celebrate? By commissioning London-based architect Zaha Hadid to build a mobile museum that would house only quiltedhandbaginspiredart and, an awkward three years later, begin a two-year world tour. The bags have already visited Hong Kong, Tokyo and will soon be making their way to New York's Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on October 20.

Some people are disgusted, some excited. It's art. No, it's advertising. It's both? Regardless, it's tremendously boring. A 7,500-square-foot loop that can be dismantled, shipped and reconstructed. Forgive me if I'm failing to see something extraordinary here. It's certainly neat-looking, but don't roadies accomplish these feats all of the time? The cool website and video are very quick to proclaim that this IS the first "mobile museum," reminding us that it's "people who usually travel to museums, not museums to people." Oh, thanks.

Perhaps my bitterness is stemming from a recent read of the Dana Thomas book on the evolution of luxury goods. Clearly much of the art in this exhibit is tongue-in-cheek, as Mr. Lagerfeld is far too smart to get in the way of the artists he commissions. (Above is "Cristal Custom Commando," by Sylvie Fleury - a video installation inside the massive handbag.)

Also, Hadid was a terrific get for this experiment, coming off the recent completion of Cincinnati's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Arts and a win of the 2004 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Notably, she has a reputation for being a bit fanciful and impractical with her designs (her website shows more drawings than completed projects) which might explain some of her attraction for Karl Lagerfeld.

Participation in the exhibit is certainly a good move for the artists, giving them the opportunity to captivate an audience of Chanel patrons. It's all a bit grand, though, for such somber economic times.

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