The Edition

1/11

Robert Wilson sets the stage for Hermès

Jun. 10, 2016

Hermès has made furniture since the early 20th century, when it commissioned pieces by legendary designers like Jean-Michel Frank. But in recent years, it has expanded its furniture and design offerings, making a fuller collection to complement its leather goods, fashion and accessory collections.

“When we came to Hermès, we asked ourselves: ‘What is a design for Hermès? Is it the Kelly, or the scarf?’” asked Charlotte Macaux Perelman, who, with Alexis Fabry, took over as deputy artistic directors of the Maison Universe in 2014. “We think there are many different values at Hermès. The home department should generate the same values.”

To stage those values, as well as amp up the fantasy, they called in Robert Wilson — Bob, to cognoscenti — the avant-garde theater director, who is a master of the surreal and the inexplicable. He has long been lionized in Europe, though despite classics like “Einstein on the Beach,” with Philip Glass, American audiences have largely been slower to embrace his oeuvre. When he staged an early production, “Deafman Glance,” a seven-hour silent play in New York, as he recounted in an interview published by Hermès, “the reception was pretty mediocre.” (In France, it was hailed as a triumph.)

For “Here Elsewhere,” his collaboration with Hermès, which will be shown privately this week, to the interiors trade as well as to artists and curators, Mr. Wilson called upon familiar collaborators. The woman on the floor with the crystal was Meg Harper, who danced for Merce Cunningham and has appeared in Mr. Wilson’s works since 1998. The kohl-eyed ingénue doing static, deliberate movements inside a frantically spinning carousel of digital images on Hermès themes (“Change! Faster!” Mr. Wilson bellowed in a rehearsal the day before the opening) was Brittany Bailey, who completed a residency at Mr. Wilson’s Watermill Center in 2014.

It is an unusual way to exhibit these objects from the first collection Ms. Macaux Perelman and Mr. Fabry oversaw for Hermès (and which had a more traditional outing at the Salone del Mobile, Milan’s furniture fair, last month), but for a traditional company, Hermès has proved very willing to embrace the unexpected in its collaborators, and even its hires, like Ms. Macaux Perelman and Mr. Fabry. She is an architect by training; he, a publisher and specialist in Latin American photography.

“I think Hermès likes not to use people for the obvious,” he said. “We’re typically people who would never be where we are if a headhunter had come to find us.”

How best to appreciate the spectacle was also not necessarily obvious, at least for those who assembled for one of its opening-night “sessions.”

“I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to follow the little pig man,” one visitor was overheard saying doubtfully.

We were. Past the suspended couch and through the frenetic carousel (where Ms. Bailey and Kayije Kagame, another dancer, took turns undulating in slow motion), Carlos Soto, a short gentleman with a pig’s nose and a spangled, matador-style outfit, giggled and led guests to a final room, pink-walled and filled with soap bubbles.

It was the exit.

“That’s all folks!” he bleated into a microphone, channeling that other great porcine performance artist, Porky. “That’s all there is! Don’t y’all have dinners to get to?”

Source: New York Times

Similar Stories