‘We want Maison Hermès to be thoroughly absorbed into Japanese society’, so declared, in all seriousness, the spokesperson of Hermès Japan.1 He also quoted Jean-Louis Dumas, the then chairman of Hermès Paris, who claimed that the Maison Hermès, located in the most fashionable shopping district of Tokyo, should be ‘as suffused with art as it is with air’. How, and for what reasons, might a Western high-couture house such as Hermès want to be ‘thoroughly absorbed into Japanese society’? And how can it possibly fill the Maison Hermès shop floors with art, without making it other than an elegant outlet catering for the company’s exclusive global consumers? This seemingly incongruous phenomenon is in every way typical of the stage of advanced capitalism reached in a postmodern metropolis where what matters, in the urban spectacle of consumption, is no longer the goods themselves but their status and symbolic value. In...

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