Louis Vuitton and Roast Duck

Just a short post on the recently opened Louis Vuitton exhibit at the Hong Kong museum of art. The exhibit was really fantastic (even for those who are clueless, apthetic, or even hostile towards luxury fashion), highlighting recent artistic additions to the Louis Vuitton team and other contemporary artists from around the world and even home grown in Hong Kong that the Louis Vuitton international company deemed fitting with the rest of the exhibit.

One of the things this exhibit highlighted for me was the crossing of art with fashion. I think in our minds we more often than not separate the two, when really many in the fashion world consider themselves artists. Particularly interesting was Takashi Murakami section, highlighting this new Japanese designer's contribution to the line (ever wonder where the traditional LV print in multicolor or with cherries came from?) Examples of Murakami's prints were accomapined with (in my opinion, kind of trippy) animated videos that show the collision of his ideas with the 19th century LV brand.

Richard Prince not only got his own room in the exhibit, but the museum itself is currently stamped with big seductive posters of various cities "after dark" (often with prelude sexual scenes as the subject). In the actual exhibit, we see this theme as well as silk screen prints of layered designs, harkoning somewhat to Andy Warhol.

A few other mentions that stuck in my head was an installation piece by Cao Fei, which was a strange "China Island" where he took all of the elements of China, interpreted by him of course, and stuck on an island. The maglev went zooming around an Oriental Pearl Tower with pink baubles; Tian'anmen square had trees, and Mao's likeness was replaced with a panda; Buddha and other discarded buildings floated in a basket out at sea, as did a giant statue of Mao; and pollution hovered over the city as the camera zoomed in and out of its inner workings.

And finally, the name of this particular post comes from an exhibit about the lost 1909 Hong Kong film "Stealing a Roast Duck." I did some googling to find out more about this movie, and what I found was well, not much (other than speculation as to whether or not it existed). What I found out at the exhibit was that it was filmed in 1909 by a revolutionary society, and while it was a comedy, it was meant to be shown to expatriates in San Francisco and give them hidden messages about the revolution through symbols in the movie. The installation art that told this story was 2 mechanical talking ducks, who told the story of the film makers, their various subversive techniques (such as hiding messages in duck meat sandwiches; apparently the grease from the duck meat helps to break down the cellulite in the paper after the recipient consumes the message), and of course, the ignima movie. A narration by a male American (the artist perhaps?) was alternated with quacks from the ducks. My interpretation is that it was meant to show how the code was portrayed through the movie; what sounds like duck quacks to us may actually be a hidden message.

This is a really fascinating piece of history, and if my google search indicates anything, no one has really talked about this (of course google search is not the end all of information. If anyone knows anything else, let me know!) Even more so, the bigger topic of international cooperation to spur on the 1911 revolution would be a fascinating topic to explore.

Another thing this exhibit made me think about was the difference between local Hong Kong artists and Chinese ones. As a disclaimer, I admit my experience is quite limited. But nevertheless, it seems that most of the contemporary Chinese artists who are becoming popular, like Cao Fei, are popular because of their critique of China, the communist party, CHina's history, China's consumerism, etc. Hong Kong artists, on the other hand, seem to be largely nostalgic and proud of their own city. I come to this opinion not only from this exhibit, which included 7 local Hong Kong artists all either exploring Hong Kong's history or showing the city's beauty through art (thereby proving that Hong Kong is not a cultural wasteland), but also through an exhibit I saw over a year ago at the same museum called "Made in Hong Kong." This exhibit was essentially a defense to the "cultural wasteland" claim, and included artists representing "their" Hong Kong essentially through sculpture, photography, painting, and installation art. One man painted huge oil paintings of scenes from movies that represent Hong Kong peoples' identity (such as a scene from a Jackie Chan movie where he is saying 'all I know is that I have 6 passports.') Another was a series of black and white calligraphic paintings in a traditional style with "Hong Kong" elements, such as captions on paintings of chickens about avian flu, or a landscape with a few scattered coke cans, or a painting of the crocodile that was loose in the pearl river and no one could catch him.

Personally, I love Hong Kong, and I found all of these exhibits representative of the Hong Kong that so few people outside of its native population get to see. But comparing Hong Kong artists with mainland ones is incredibly striking. Perhaps it is government attitude that causes this difference, or more likely it is because pain and suffering often causes release of that pain in the art scene. It will be interesting to see what happens to the art scene on both sides as time progresses.


  1. Well, I Googled the movie using its Chinese title, and what I found was someone disputing whether it's a Hong Kong film, since it's produced by an American company.

    And then there are the four parodies made by the 2009 Hong Kong Film Awards, based on classic Hong Kong movies (i.e., A Better Tomorrow, Days of Being Wild, The Eye and Infernal Affairs).

  2. The little I've found about this movie is based on a small amount of information and a large amount of speculation. According to the exhibit, this was produced in HK and sent to San Francisco for viewing. The artist, however, said that much of the information he dealt with was hard to be labeled as hard facts. The truth is, it is even hard to know if this movie existed.

    I think the reason I liked this so much is because, even though it is hard to know anything about this subject, the speculation is cool. More than that, the way we use the history we create, even if it is conjecture or myth, says a lot about who we are today (in this case, it is Hong Kongers using their own history to show how they understand their connection with modern Chinese history).