Friday, December 19, 2008

Chanel Cancels Mobile Art Tour

WWD is reporting that Chanel on Friday said it would pull the plug on its costly Mobile Art exhibition that was slated to travel to major cities worldwide in a space-age pre-fab structure by architect Zaha Hadid.

The decision comes amid snowballing bad economic news and Wall Street scandals and reflects a new sobriety for luxurious endeavors.

"Considering the current economic crisis, we decided it was best to stop the project," said a Chanel spokeswoman. "We will be concentrating on strategic growth investments."

Conceived by Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld with Hadid, the Mobile Art exhibition was one of the most ambitious art-meets-fashion cohabitations embraced by the luxury and fashion worlds.

Chanel planned to use Hadid's building to accrue brand equity by displaying artworks inspired by Chanel's 2.55 quilted, chain-strap handbag.

Twenty contemporary artists agreed to participate in the exercise, including Daniel Buren, Sylvie Fleury, Yoko Ono and Wim Delvoye.

The project was born as luxury seemed invulnerable to downturn. But by the time Mobile Art opened in Hong Kong last March, the cracks in the world economy had started to deepen.

The project traveled to Tokyo. By the time it landed in Central Park in New York in October, the global economy was crumbling at an alarming pace. Plans have been scraped to take the exhibit to London, Moscow and Paris.

The excess the project represented didn't go unnoticed.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, architecture critic at the New York Times, called it a hoodwink. "The pavilion sets out to drape an aura of refinement over a cynical marketing gimmick," he wrote. "If devoting so much intellectual effort to such a dubious undertaking might have seemed indulgent a year ago, today it looks delusional."

Chanel's spokeswoman declined to say how much the project cost. She said Chanel was "studying" the fate of Hadid's structure. She added the artwork included in the exhibit still belonged to the artists. "Chanel has first priority to buy them," according to the spokeswoman.

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