All that glitters (March 01, 2011)

The sculptural installation as a reflection of commerce. Literally. It sparkles and shimmers, it glints and glistens, depending on the light, day or night. Over seven storeys high, far taller than a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and more wonderful to behold. Customers at the newly built Lotte department store in Cheongyangni, Korea, can be forgiven for stopping their shopping just a moment to look up and marvel. Or while riding the flanking escalators to focus their gaze on the glittering maze-work of pearly beads, crystallized diamonds, chunks of amber and tiny, faceted disco balls, strung on near-invisible nylon lines studded alike with stylized butterflies, leaves and petals, all gold and silver polycarbonate and brass mesh subtly swaying with the in-store air currents; all covered, as it were, in collective reflective glory. 

Edward Lam, of Toronto’s famed Moss & Lam custom design studio, was the principal mind behind the Magic Garden, this huge atrium-domiciled mobile unveiled, after many weeks of intensive teamwork, last August. His inspiration: how do you take so many little things, over 200,000 of them, and create a giant, unified whole? His caveat: this is art; yet, being a commercial commission, isn’t quite. Given the masses of hands and intricate detail involved, it is more like a movie, what director David Lean once termed “a near-art form.” Lam, keeper of the concept, acted very much like a film director. 

The clients, too, took a role. The sculpture needed to interact with its surroundings, so it plays strong counterpoint, pouring down from the ovoid Plexiglas dome overhead, suggestive of a shower of fractured sunlight, shattering the very rigidity, the blandly beige angular modernity, of the store below. 

It must also speak to the customers, mirroring the company’s philosophy of fantasy, prestige, femininity. Just as elsewhere in the world, women represent by far the majority of retail customers; but in the Far East, there is still an older-fashioned, one-income system in place, where the men work for the money wives and girlfriends spend. Unabashedly female-centric then, the Magic Garden resembles most a luxurious chandelier earring shot in extreme close-up, designed to whet buyers’ appetites and inspire them to take a fragment of this glamour home.  cI