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Navigating the Fine Line Between Art and Luxury

The 11-foot sculpture looks like something out of a comic strip: a luxury handbag perched on skinny legs and matched with high-end sneakers. The work is by the Austrian-born artist Erwin Wurm, and it represents accessories from the collections of Lanvin, the French fashion house.

“Desire” (the title of the sculpture) was commissioned by Lanvin and unveiled in Beijing in early April. It will travel to six other Chinese cities, including Shanghai — where, in June, a Wurm solo exhibition opens at the Fosun Foundation: the nonprofit arm of the Fosun Group, Lanvin’s majority owners.

“I made this piece because it fit into my series,” Wurm, 69, said in a phone interview, referring to his “walking bag” sculptures, which parody women’s contemporary passion for handbags. “I reduce females to long legs and shoes and handbags. That’s a statement, but it’s a critical statement.”

The artist acknowledged that the Lanvin sculpture commission might appear to some as if “I created something for a brand,” but he said that he agreed to it, realizing that “it can be dangerous, or it can be good.”


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