When Hermès of Paris invited Robert Wilson, an internationally renowned director, to create an installation featuring pieces from its Hermès Maison collection, the result was an exceptional and unique installation called “Here Elsewhere” that brought to life the relationship between men, women and objects, complete with video portraits and live performers. The event took place at Cedar Lake, a warehouse space in the heart of Chelsea in Manhattan in May.
According to Hermès, “It’s not about creating a ‘dream house’; it’s about the dream of a house and the emotional reaction that this immersive installation provokes.” The installation entitled Here Elsewhere, is an exploration of the oxymoron which exists at the heart of the Hermès Maison Universe as interpreted by Robert Wilson. It sought to articulate contrasts between physical materiality and between rigor and fantasy.
Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès Creative Director and 6th generation family member, invited Wilson, the acclaimed director and visual artist, to create an original work, where performers and collections from the Hermès Maison Universe interacted with each other. Live performances in a theater set-up were staged with dramatic lighting and effects along with such Hermès Maison objects including a beautifully handcrafted Sellier sofa, chairs with caned seats, an Ecritoire desk with leather upholstery, a leather club armchair with handstitching, a folding screen, a stunning arched floor lamp and a leather magazine rack that resembled a saddle rack.
Wilson, who is also a visual artist, spatial design architect and performer, created the installation from scratch that combined shadow and light, quietude and effervescence—a dialog in perfect harmony with essential everyday objects, which ordinarily have the grace to stay in the background.
Furniture and home accessories have been part of Hermès collections since the 1920’s beginning with Jean-Michel Frank. Today Hermès Maison is a whole universe: from furniture, lighting, textiles & wall covering, to objects and tableware. The company announced its newly appointed Maison Universe Artistic Directors, Charlotte Perelman and Alexis Fabry, during the recent Milan Furniture Fair.
Axel Dumas, chief executive officer of Hermès, explained the thought process behind the collaboration with Wilson, who he described as a master of light and restrained tension, to “give these objects life, to help to express on a physical level the dreams we hope they will inspire in he or she who acquires them. grace to stay in the background.”
“Robert Wilson has imagined a poetic conversation between the objects that leaves memories of wonder and a sense of shared beauty in the imagination while playing on humor, mystery, and reverie,” say Maison Universe Artistic Directors, Charlotte Perelman and Alexis Fabry.
The exhibition was punctuated by transparent gauze and interspersed with videos and performances, with five spaces that gave rise to a play on textures and to shapes with an obvious relevance.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this, it was a fascinating challenge for me,” said Wilson. “I have long admired the quality of the work of Hermès’ craftsmen. That is why I accepted this challenge, with the desire to create something different. By creating Here Elsewhere, I wanted to see how different objects could complement each other. Taking one object and putting another one next to it helps me to see them better, and every encounter enhances my perception of them. They become important in their differences or similarities. Directors, conductors, playwrights, and illustrators are all confronted with these choices, these decisions in time and space.”
Perelman recalled Wilson’s staging of the opera Madama Butterfly. “The music, lights, and acting were put under constant tension, with a certain starkness that particularly moved me,” she said. “At Hermès, we aspire to this same tension, between the rigor of the object and the gestures of the craftsman. The Hermès home collections cover a number of fields, and each of these approaches finds its full expression. The furniture tends toward simplicity, while the tableware, textiles, fabrics, and wallpapers are given a narrative aspect. When used in the right proportions, rigor and fantasy can complement and balance each other out.”
Photos by BFA.com and Carrie Coolidge
Carrie Coolidge is a Pursuitist contributor based in Manhattan. From 2009 to 2011, Carrie served as Co-Editor of Luxist, the luxury lifestyle website at AOL where she ran the Luxist Awards, a program that honored the very best in fine living. From 1996 to 2009, Carrie was a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, where she covered real estate, personal finance and the insurance industry, among other areas. Carrie is also the author of six books, including "The Business of America is Business". Follow her on Twitter: @carriecoolidge