Orient-Hermès at l’Institut du Monde Arabe
  • 02
  • Jun
  • 2010

Text: Aran Cravey for Vingtmagazine

Visions of the mystic splendors of the exotic East have long beguiled the imagination of Western artists. Nineteenth century painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Eugène Delacroix were enchanted by the stories and decorative objects imported  from the newly colonized French territories. Fascinated by the allure and mystique of the “Orient”  or, what we now know as Northern Africa and the Middle East, Western artists appropriated the masterful techniques and combined them with their own imaginative visions to create a pastiche of two cultures often referred to as “Orientalism.” The term has since fallen out of favor as anachronistic, yet, the mystic charm of its artistic tradition continues to inspire the creative imagination.

In the new exhibition “Orient-Hermès” at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Leïla Menchari, one of  the luxury brand’s premier designers, has combined the sumptuous products of the label with her own images and memories of a childhood spent in Northern Africa. Renowned for her exquisite design concepts found in the store’s Paris windows, the Tunisian born designer has created eight individual vignettes that capture the allure and fantasy of the mythic East.

Drawing from the mythology and fairy tales learned as child, Ms. Menchari brings the sensuous textures and fragrances of her heritage, together with the design and prestige of the iconic luxury brand, to create eight opulent compositions that are treasure troves for the senses.

Hermes devotées flocking purely for the pleasure of ogling the Birkins and Kellys will be treated to a feast of decadent, one-of-kind pieces created only for display. However, the real stars of this show are the indigenous artisans of the region, whose skill and talent have been the source of inspiration for centuries.

Interwoven within the eight displays of the exposition’s bazaar-like configuration (there’s even a traditional tea salon in the center!) are the master craftsmen who create the detailed handiwork found in the leather, glass, copper, and silk of Hermes’ products. In Ms. Menchari’s celebration of the cultural riches of her homeland, she has presented us with both the fantasy and the reality of the l’Orient mystique.

“Orient-Hermès” at l’Institut du Monde Arabe, 1 Rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard,75005 Paris M° Jussieu / Cardinal-Lemoine


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