Darlings of contemporary art highlight stellar Louis Vuitton exhibition


Takashi Murakami, Cherries, 2005

Here at Hong Kong Hustle we’ve previously discussed the fact that luxury brands are the new patrons of the arts. In the recently opened exhibition, “Louis Vuitton: a Passion for Creation,” the well known brand has created an exhibition worthy of its prominent name.

The large, multi-gallery show provides a rare glimpse at works from revered contemporary artists including Jean-Michel Basquait, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Takashi Murakami, to name just a few. This is an opportunity that doesn’t frequently present itself in Hong Kong.

The exhibition is larger than I expected and is broken up into several sections. Marc Jacobs, who was once artistic director of Louis Vuitton, is credited with spearheading the brand’s collaborations with contemporary artists. This was a wise move – Takashi Murakami’s designs for Louis Vuitton alone sold over $300 million U.S. dollars worth of merchandise!

Collaborating with artistic big guns such as Stephen Sprouse and the others has yielded impressive results. Who better to enlist than those with a brilliant understanding of colors, patterns and forms? Together they have pushed the envelope, furnishing the venerable brand with fresh, sought-after designs season after season.

The exhibition

Walking through the exhibition takes time. There is a large segment of film and video work in addition to paintings, sculptures and installations. In some cases, the featured artists have collaborated directly with Louis Vuitton, while others are included for their notable creative vision. What follows are a few of the highlights.


Andreas Gursky’s room containing photos of Formula One pit stop crews at work is both technically fascinating as well as intriguing. The photos feature an almost classical composition reminiscent of “The Adoration of the Magi.” The series is titled F1 Boxenstopp from 2007.

There are several complex works by Jean-Michel Basquiat included in the exhibition.


The pieces are rich in historical and pop culture references, as well as the artist’s play on words.

Takashi Murakami’s portion of the exhibit takes up an entire large room. Though some traditional art enthusiasts have had trouble understanding his often consumer-friendly creations, the artistic merits are clearly apparent throughout the gallery. Here we find not only smart reinterpretations on canvas (that play with signature Louis Vuitton patterns,) but also sculptures and video work. For more background information about Murakami, check out this lengthy article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Stephen Sprouse also has a major section devoted to his work. Even if you’re not familiar with his name, the Louis Vuitton bags bearing his touch will surely jar your memory. Sprouse, a fashion star of the eighties who utilized a unique punk / graffiti style, collaborated with Louis Vuitton for several successful seasons. It’s interesting to see the greater depth of his work here.

In a city crowded with neon lights, Bertrand Lavier’s Empress of India II is still interesting to behold.


The grand scale and multiple rooms of the Hong Kong Museum of Art match the exhibition well. Perhaps there is no other location in the city that can support a major show of this scale. Works of this caliber deserve the space and dignity of this kind of environment. In order to fully appreciate certain pieces one needs to be able to step back and gain perspective of the work. Hong Kong’s land prices make for cramped galleries that resemble convenience stores more than international showcases for art. It denigrates the work to be shown in a closet-sized space, or a jumbled setting.

The exhibition is slightly reminiscent of last year’s Chanel Mobile Art, though in that case, the clear star was Zaha Hadid’s building. In the architectural department, Frank Gehry represents the brand’s designer of choice. Part of the exhibition features a large model of the Louis Vuitton Foundation building – designed by the futuristic Gehry. There are also videos and books by the architect on display.

The collection of work by local artists was mixed. Standouts included the subtle but smart installation of window bars common to Hong Kong apartments. Another work that caught my attention was an interesting installation in orange and brown tones.

After about two hours I started to get hungry and had to leave certain elements of the show unexplored. For example, I didn’t take in the full video offerings, but was impressed enough by some of the video shorts / installations that I’m planning another visit. (The most impressive so far: a complex piece composed of gun-fighting sequences; a short work about a skull; and a small TV with scenes of flocking birds.)

The Hong Kong Museum of art itself became part of the exhibit as it was wrapped in art by Richard Prince.

[photopress:Richard_Prince_art_LV_Hong_.jpg,full,pp_image] Hong Kong Museum of Art wrapped by Richard Prince

The graphics use cover art from pulp fiction paperbacks. This type of artwork was meant to titillate the passerby and entice them into purchasing the book. Promising exotic locations and wild tales, the books were often serials. This one is notably titled “Hong Kong After Dark.” Let’s hope it draws more people to the exhibition!

Don’t miss it!

Don’t be one of those people who waits and waits and then misses the show – as some of you did for Chanel Mobile Art or the Vivienne Westwood retrospective! When it comes to art, Hong Kong is improving remarkably fast. Let’s keep the momentum going!


Louis Vuiton: A Passion For Creation
Hong Kong Museum of Art
10 Salisbury Road
(just next to the Cultural Centre and Avenue of the Stars)
Tsim Sha Tsui

From now until August 9th
$30HKD adult price
Closed on Thursdays (except public holidays)
Open every day from 10am until 6pm, and 8pm on Saturdays



  • I find it very disappointing that you didn’t mention ANY of the Hong Kong artists’ names or spend time either documenting or even commenting on the work (While your discussions of the collection show were patently off-base, they at least tried to address the content. Leonardo & Gursky? Pop Culture and Historical references in Basquiat? I’ll leave that for another post.)

    As a patron of the arts here in Hong Kong, I was thoroughly impressed with the efforts of local artists in the show. There were animatronic talking ducks for christssake, narrating a journey through what appeared to be an ice cream shop. (Which you reduced to “an interesting installation in orange and brown tones.”) Nadim Abbas was the artist who worked out the Rorschach-inspired windows and Adrian Wong Ho Yin was the artist responsible for the duck installation. There are also seminal works on view by Warren Leung Chi-Wo, Lee Kit, Tsang Kin Wah, Tozer Pak Sheung Chuen, and Doris Wong.

    Yes, we are lucky to have such an extensive exhibition come to Hong Kong, which has served doubly as a platform for the active local scene that already exists here. It would be great if you’d take some time to engage with it. I know that the artists would appreciate it, and you might even find something that you didn’t expect.

    Please feel free to write me for tips. I am an avid reader of your site, and have been holding my tongue for some time. I think you could really do something interesting with your arts coverage, though you seem to have limited yourself to the “fluff” that sits on top of a surprisingly vibrant scene.

  • Hi Wendy,

    First of all, blog posts typically focus on a single angle. So with the LV exhibition I simply couldn’t cover everything. As I said in the post, I didn’t have the time.

    The main draw of the exhibition wasn’t the local art, but the international contemporary art that never travels to Hong Kong. These are works by people regarded as making significant contributions to the international art of today. Naturally I’m going to give more emphasis to them.

    I’m planning a second trip back. Perhaps during my next visit I can take more time and explore the local art in depth.

    Regarding your comments, rather than a dialogue, much of what you say comes across as an attack.

    Art is subjective. People have different understandings and aesthetics.

    If you can’t appreciate the photos by Gurksy, or don’t understand some of the complexities of Jean Michel Basquiat’s work, it’s your loss.

    It’s great that you took so much away from the local segment of the exhibition, but it would have been better if you commented about it in a positive tone, rather than being caustic and condescending.

  • To clarify, I wasn’t criticizing the rest of the show. It’s an amazing show. Gursky is one of the most talented photographers working today – and Basquiat is a bonafide genius.

    All I was trying to point out was:
    (1) “Classical compositions” are never bilaterally symmetrical – and focus on a subject either at 2/3 or 5/6 L or R of the picture plane. In “Adoration[s] of the Magi” the emphasis is placed on the central figure -Jesus- and the surrounding gazes of Mary and the 3 Magi. In Gursky’s compositions he uses something more akin to the omniscient eye of a view-camera and de-emphasizes his centrally located subject. There’s no focus or blur or directional cues to place any kind of hierarchy on the scene.

    (2) By all historical accounts, Basquiat suffered from severe paranoia, exacerbated by his drug addiction, and had a highly reclusive and self-reflective mode of working. The text used, repetition, scribbles, and schizotypal narratives suggest a more hermetic approach. And apart from the infrequent mention of a brand name or two (Everlast/Duracell/etc.) he’s not accustomed to using pop cultural references at all.

    Yes, art is subjective, but that doesn’t mean that all interpretations are equally valid.

  • Wendy,

    You’re arguing about things that aren’t even debatable.

    Just a brief glance at “F1 Boxenstopp” by Gursky and you can see the mechanics surrounding the car in a way that resembles “Adoration of the Magi”. It’s that simple.

    You’re absolutely wrong again when you try to claim that Jean Michel Basquait is “not accustomed to using Pop cultural references at all.”

    Just look at the close-up that I included in the post… do you see the bat-signal from Batman? There are countless other references as well just in the three paintings included in the show.

    You’re right about one thing – that not all interpretations about art are equally valid!

  • The exhibition is very nice and good experience.
    Bring your student’s card!
    Cuz you’ll discount-

  • hi! me and mt friends will be visiting hong kong from the 13th til the 17th. I feel so bad that this LV exhibit only ran til the 9th. do you know what exhibit will be available for viewing during our stay? also, i have an entire day all to myself. where do u suggest i go? i’ve already been to the mainstream tourist destinations like disneyland, ocean park, jumbo kingdom, repulse bay, wax museum and the like since this will be my second trip to your place. i wanna see a different side of hong kong this time. new shopping places perhaps? or chocolate shops…and museums…can u help me plot my itinerary? thanks a lot! oh and i really love your blog.sooo helpful.=)

  • Check out my Hong Kong in 1 day post. Look in the Tourist Picks category of Hong Kong Hustle for some ideas. It sounds like you’ve only seen the most traditional tourist spots in the city.

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