Luxury is one of the key words of our time, driving a multi billion dollar global industry, and used ubiquitously to describe exclusive objects and aspirational lifestyles. Pinning down the concept in concrete terms, however, is more elusive and problematic.
This hub is dedicated to interrogating the idea of luxury through its changing definitions and manifestations from the ancient world until the present day. It is also committed to examining issues of sustainable luxury, and the concept of luxury as emotion. Workshops, symposia, and exhibitions are held on a regular basis both at the University of Melbourne, and internationally, involving a range of researchers whose work impacts on these broad themes of consumption across time and space.
This hub is curated by Catherine Kovesi, whose research on Luxury in the Early Modern World is based on a view of luxury as a contingent historical product - in word, concept, and practice - which evoked and continues to evoke ambivalent and strong emotions in every period.
In September 2014, an international two-day conference Luxury and the Ethics of Greed in the Early Modern World was convened by Catherine Kovesi. Hosted jointly by the Harvard Centre for Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, Florence and the European University Institute, Fiesole, the conference was sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust-funded Luxury Network.
A selection of papers from this conference as well as additional contributions from a range of scholars will be published in December 2018 by Brepols in their Early European Research series under the title Luxury and the Ethics of Greed in Early Modern Italy.
Edited and introduced by Catherine Kovesi, contributing scholars include Lino Pertile, Peter Howard, Laura Giannetti, Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Jola Pellumbi, Timothy Wilson, Sean Roberts, Timothy McCall, Rebecca Earle, and Paula Hohti.
the luxury network
Between 2013 and 2015, the Leverhulme Trust funded an International Partnership Network on the topic ‘Luxury and the Manipulation of Desire: Historical Perspectives for Contemporary Debates.’
Based at the University of Warwick, under the co-directorship of Giorgio Riello and Rosa Salzberg, this network included Marta Ajmar of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Glenn Adamson of the Museum of Art and Design, New York; Peter McNeil of the University of Stockholm and UTS Sydney; Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli of the University of Bologna; and Catherine Kovesi of the University of Melbourne.
A series of international conferences and workshops were held, and several publications have resulted from this network, which also witnessed the launch of a new journal Luxury: History, Culture Consumption edited by Jonathan Faiers founder member and co-director of the Luxury Research Group based at the Winchester College of Art. This is the first peer-reviewed, academic journal to investigate this globally contested term. The Luxury Network’s activities culminated in an exhibition ‘What is Luxury?’ held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015.
Although the network’s official activities have concluded, its members continue to work in the field, to collaborate, and to engage with its core ideas. Consequently a decision was made to give the network’s website an additional platform here within the Luxury Hub of Emporium.