Luxes: discovering the world of luxury

What is luxury? Is it material or immaterial, does it have a price?

Since mid-October, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs presents an exhibition that explores the notion of luxury, its multifaceted meaning and representation from ancient times to the present day. The showrooms are filled with magnificent objects of all kinds, shapes and provenance, tracing the representation of luxury thematically, chronologically and by disciplinary field.

The exhibition thus showcases objects of luxury from numerous ages, countries and artists. From vases, silverware, to whole rooms and furniture, to dresses and jewellery, we move across the showrooms in awe of sumptuous and splendid pieces. What emerges from the exhibition is that there is no unilateral definition of luxury as there is no such thing: the concept and representation of luxury are dynamic, the notion itself evolving with time depending on geography and context. 


Expo Luxes Musée des Arts Décoratifs


We can admire, for example, an astronomical clock with a compass made of copper. The piece, coming from 17th century Paris, served as an instrument of scientific progress in a time marked by scientific discovery, practice, testing and experimentation dominating over theory. This gave space for an increasing production of devices that would serve to expand the developing disciplinary fields of geometry, astronomy, navigation, mathematics. These devices could be sophisticated and elegant, expensive, becoming thus luxurious items but they were also luxurious because of what they represented: knowledge. At a time of thrilling scientific discovery, knowledge was the most sought-after element and thus of luxury, whether it be in immaterial or in material forms.


Expo Luxes Musée des Arts Décoratifs


Another remarkable element of the exhibition is the Salon du Bois, created by the Parisian ceramist, artist and interior designer Georges Hoentschel for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. This design, a magnificent ensemble of wood panelling, made of Algerian sycamore, along with a collection of ornamental pieces, represents the finest craftsmanship and mastery of the arts. Entering a room which is in itself a subject of contemplation, the viewer is immersed in luxury. What the craftsmen idealised with the creation of these pieces was a conception of luxury that glorifies nature, borrowing from it to create something that would permanently testify to its beauty.


Salon du Bois et Salon 1900 Luxes


Along with ornamental and interior design pieces, the exhibition walks us through to modern and contemporary times, showcasing the luxury of the fashion industry. Admiring creations by Gabrielle Chanel, Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga, and especially the “Magnificent Gold” gown by the Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, we are driven to our current conception of luxury. Ranging from lavish, elegant dresses to sporty sneakers, anything can become a luxurious item. The exhibition thus invites the visitors to reflect on the evolution of luxury: with consumerism rendering everything immediately accessible to a much larger number of people, luxury is in continuous transformation. However, it is also increasingly aware of its impact on societies and especially on the environment, thus we are seeing a growing awareness and respect for nature entering the values of major fashion houses.


Guo Pei Magnificent Gold Luxes


Luxury thus encompasses a wide range of meanings depending particularly on space and time – geography and context. The value of an object does not merely lie in itself, the luxury related to it is rather assessed by what that object can represent, what message it sends to the people owning it and to those seeing it. Hence why luxury is also immaterial: it can be an idea, a concept or a feeling. 

Unfortunately, given the current circumstances of lockdown in Paris and the rest of France, the museum is temporarily closed, but there is a way you can still experience this wonderful exhibition: participate in our videoconference! We are launching a series of virtual tours so that you won’t have to miss the exhibition you were hoping to attend! Including “Luxes”, we offer a wide range of topics and exhibitions that you will be able to choose from, attending your own bespoke virtual conference with our selected experts. 

Don’t hesitate to contact us to book a virtual tour of “Luxes” or any other exhibition of your choice!