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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: June 17, 2011 NO. 25 JUNE 23, 2011
Should the National Museum Hold Trademark Shows?

HALL OF LUXURY: Louis Vuitton's Voyages exhibition in the National Museum of China (XINHUA)

The French luxury brand Louis Vuitton is unveiling its special summer exhibit Voyages. The exhibition will be held in the National Museum of China from May 31 to August 30 this year. The exhibition displays almost 200 exhibits designed throughout the brand's 157 years' history, covering luggage and other items such as clothing.

The exhibition comes just before the luggage and accouterment firm's 20th anniversary in China. Comprising of four rooms, the exhibition takes visitors on an up-close journey through the manufacturer's history, starting with its humble beginning as a luggage shop in 1854.

The exhibition incurs doubt from the public about whether the country's leading cultural palace should hold such an exhibition that reeks of commercialism. The museum responded that it was a careful and prudent decision after listening to various opinions. This was the first time the newly renovated museum cooperated with a commercial brand. The museum has strict criteria for exhibits and it hoped that this type of exhibition would inspire domestic cultural creativity.

Wrong doing

Ren Zhunxi (www.rednet.cn): We have seen so many of these types of things in recent months. Museums, historical sites and universities, which are conventionally regarded as "pure" places, are frequently used for business purposes nowadays. The Palace Museum in Beijing is said to be secretly used for private lounges and a Jeanswest Building has appeared on the campus of Tsinghua University. This time, a luggage maker's exhibition in the National Museum of China is another example.

Chen Lusheng, Deputy Director of the National Museum of China, said that when introducing this brand's exhibition, the museum follows a standard of emphasizing on both history and art. This exhibition is expected to bring some inspiration to China's cultural creativity industry. The question is, compared with China's 5,000 years' civilization, what's the historical significance of this 157-year-old brand?

The National Museum of China is located near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, facing the Great Hall of the People. Everything implies the museum is set up to present this country's history and culture to the world.

The museum should hold exhibitions displaying the best of this great country, matching the nation's old history and civilization. But the huge respect this newly reopened museum is showing to a commercial brand seems to be a humiliation to Chinese culture. Feeling angry, I can't help asking: Who are the beneficiaries of such kind of exhibitions?

I should say it would be all right to have a Louis Vuitton exhibition here in China. But holding a commercial exhibition in the National Museum of China does not tally with the museum's status.

Like the Jeanswest Building on Tsinghua campus, the target is not the brand itself, but the practice of introducing commercial brands into cultural places or academic sites, such as a university.

When it comes to money, the luggage manufacturer said, their century-old craftwork is priceless and they have a passion for culture, and the last thing they care about is money. The National Museum of China said these types of exhibitions are very expensive, but that is not the major concern of the exhibitor and the museum. The purpose of the exhibition is to display culture.

The National Museum is home to thousands of years' cultural relics. A commercial brand does not deserve such a high-level showing there.

Louis Vuitton products are now popular among China's rich, and the brand has been a kind of status symbol. Now, it has managed to become the subject of a national museum exhibition, putting it among the best of China's culture and history. It is hard for the public to accept.

If the museum had an academic committee responsible for culture and education and a channel for listening to the public, this kind of events would seldom occur. Exhibitions in the National Museum of China are expected to, on the one hand, show the country's culture, and on the other hand satisfy the nation's cultural demand. The exhibition of famous commercial brands is not to satisfy the people's cultural demand, but only to satisfy the museum's financial demand.

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