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Luxury department stores introduce art to attract customers

The digital art exhibition
The digital art exhibition "Blue Room" at Groundseesaw Myeongdong located in Lotte Department Store Avenuel in downtown Seoul / Courtesy of Media N Art

By Park Han-sol

With e-commerce markets flourishing at an unprecedented level amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continued social distancing, more offline branches of luxury department stores are turning to exhibitions featuring celebrated artists as well as immersive digital pieces to appeal to a new sector of art-loving customers.

"Blue Room" is a cinematic, immersive media art exhibition, which opened its doors June 4 at the Groundseesaw Myeongdong. Located on the ninth floor of Lotte Department Store's Avenuel Branch in downtown Seoul, the 800-square-meter venue itself becomes an exhibition hall with six-meter tall projector screens covering its entire walls, topped with a multiplex cinema sound system.

The 50-minute-long show themed "A Trip to New Awakening," organized by Media N Art and Habitant, is divided into eight "chapters" aiming to provide an unfamiliar yet mesmerizing experience to viewers while they stand at the heart of the urban landscape.

Without the need to follow specific directions, visitors can freely walk around the venue that begins with a flood of blue hues. The show then continues with other dreamlike sequences, including the scene of a primeval dance ritual featuring seven giants with an overpowering presence and fantastical portrayals of car crashes with flashy patterns.

"The department store established this media art exhibit hall to appeal to our main customers as well as millennials and Gen Z for an enjoyable audiovisual experience," Kim Sang-woo at Lotte Department Store's merchandising and strategy department said. "We estimate that the platform can bring in some 200,000 visitors every year."

A special pop-up exhibition featuring the works of Italian illustrator Francesco Bongiorni is another store mixing art and luxury at the Galleria Department Store Luxury Hall in Seoul. The event, organized by startup Pinzle, presents limited editions of Bongiorni's illustrations, known for their witty and impactful concepts, often with a satirical touch.

A solo exhibition of German visual artist Gerhard Richter presents the Version IX of his
A solo exhibition of German visual artist Gerhard Richter presents the Version IX of his "4900 Colours" (2007) at Espace Louis Vuitton Seoul. Courtesy of Espace Louis Vuitton Seoul

In addition to department stores, luxury brands continue their efforts at offering exhibitions in tribute to renowned artists in built-in spaces within their flagship stores. The Espace Louis Vuitton Seoul is one of them.

Established in 2019, the venue is nestled on the fourth floor of the flagship store Maison Louis Vuitton Seoul. Its glass exterior, inspired by the traditional Korean dance "Dongnae Hakchum," was designed by architect Frank Gehry.

The hall is showcasing pieces by acclaimed contemporary visual artist Gerhard Richter for the first time in Korea, until July 18.

The German artist's remarkably extensive oeuvre is often characterized as hovering freely between figurative and abstract art. His works include portraits reproducing newspaper and real-life photographs, still-life paintings and monochrome and color-grid abstractions.

Among a total of 11 configurations, the Version IX of "4900 Colours" on display consists of four kaleidoscopic paintings filled with different combinations of 196 color panels.

"4900 Colours" was originally inspired by Richter's efforts to replicate paint manufacturers' industrial color charts in 1966. Then, in 2007, the artist was invited to redesign the South transept window for Cologne Cathedral in Germany, which was destroyed during the World War II. He was able to realize his fascination of color grids in the window-work titled "Domfenster," comprising 11,500 hand-blown squares of glass in 72 different colors.

A method he used in "Domfenster" to generate a unique distribution of color squares with a particular computer program was applied to "4900 Colours" as well, which was created in parallel.

Digital art exhibition
Digital art exhibition "Blue Room" at Groundseesaw Myeongdong / Courtesy of Media N Art
박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr


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