On the top floor of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, visitors can marvel the intricate 5th-century-BC Parthenon frieze: carved in relief by Pheidias, a sculptor of nearly mythological renown, this monumental artwork depicts a celebration and pomp in honour of the goddess Athena, and includes a lively procession of horsemen, musicians and people carrying offerings to the gods. Contrary to the common belief that ancient Greek architecture and sculpture was pure white, these intricate decorations were in fact painted on, most probably with intense, bold colours. It might be hard to imagine today, but the backdrop of this magnificent horse parade was possibly painted a deep cerulean, the bodies of the horses could have been red, and the horsemen's flowing mantles a bright tone of orange.
|Paradis, Parfait Tirage, 2011|
Fast-forward a couple of millennia, and you’re in Paris, France, peeking over the shoulder of a master leather-artisan making a bespoke foldable desk pad. Each step of the process is as calculated and meticulous as carving a piece of stone, with every stitch and fold on the material bringing it closer to its final, ideal shape. Using only natural materials and eschewing mass-production methods, Hermès has been making every bag, chair and scarf in small workshops for nearly two centuries now. Now, if there’s anything in common between an Hermès bag and an ancient Greek statue, it’s probably in how they both bring about a special relationship between time and materials, where the master craftsman’s hand transforms matter into something that matters, and brings into the world an object that is timeless.
Hermès has a long history of collaborating with artists and drawing inspiration from the art of its time. Today, through initiatives like the Fondation d’ Entreprise Hermès and the Petite h project, the maison fosters and supports new creation, craftsmanship and experimentation all around the globe. In fact, every Hermès shop becomes a showcase for contemporary art, through collaborations with visual artists for striking window-display installations; for its Athens shop on the busy Voukourestiou street, Hermès has presented the work of many Greek and international artists over the years, like for example the Cypriot Socratis Socratous, or more recently, Argentinian Alexandra Kehayoglou.
Lastly, by inviting artists to contribute artworks to be screen-printed on the iconic Hermès scarves, the house of Hermès is quite literally weaving together craftsmanship, art and functionality in the most contemporary of ways.
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