A must see: Hermès Exhibition from 8 November to 3 December 2017, at the Grand Palais – Paris
“Draw me your dreams” asked Annie Beaumel, head of Hermès’ window displays, to Leïla Menchari when she arrived at 24, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The year was 1961 and Leïla Menchari was completing her course at the Beaux-Arts school in Paris after studying fine arts in Tunis, where she grew up. This was the start of Leïla Menchari’s career at Hermès. From 1978 to 2013, she imagined, designed and produced window displays for the Parisian saddle-maker, whilst simultaneously directing the Silk Colours Committee.
Through a series of eight tableaux staged by Nathalie Crinière, visitors can discover, or rediscover Leïla Menchari’s extraordinary and generous worlds.
While materials are the guiding thread of this exhibition, which revives the artist’s enchanting displays, each of the eight scenes tells a story first and foremost. For Leïla Menchari is a storyteller: she recounts her dreams and her creations with Hermès’ exceptional artists and artisans, as well as tales of Tunisia or other destinations encountered on her many travels. Painters, sculptors, leather artisans, straw weavers, mosaic artists, stone-cutters and glass-blowers are just some of the numerous craftspeople who have magnificently collaborated with the artist to produce the objects and scenes of her surprising, fantastical and flamboyant windows.
“I always wanted my work to be authentic and sincere,” she explains. “I have been known to be surrealistic, and I do love that, but always with real things, things that people can recognise. It had to be unexpected, unusual and surprising, and it had to engage passers-by.”
Leïla Menchari, the Queen of Enchantment
There are artists who seem to have lived many lives, and whose work is intimately grounded in exceptional places and encounters. And there are writers who are able to render perfectly the charm and the fullness of these lives and these works. Such is the case of “Leïla’s tale” as it is conveyed here by Michèle Gazier.
Leïla Menchari is a woman smitten by beauty who, between 1978 and 2013, supervised the window displays for the Hermès store on rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. Her creations and her talent to make the colour of silks sing recount a story that began in the 1930s in the direction of Tunis…
Since, first of all, there are the places. Born into a family in love with modernity, the little girl discovered the fabulous garden that the American Jean Henson had created at Hammamet. Welcomed by the Henson couple, she studied successively at the Beaux Arts School of fine arts in Tunis, then the Beaux Arts School of fine arts in Paris where her creative life began, before the doors of Hermès opened for her in 1961. Her two cultures – Tunisian and French – came together happily alongside the decorator Annie Beaumel. When she left in 1978, Leïla Menchari became solely responsible for the window displays of 24, Faubourg Saint Honoré.
Actes Sud and Hermès continue their joint publishing venture, launched in 2012 with a publication that accompanies the exhibition devoted to Leïla Menchari.
Prefaced by Axel Dumas, President of Hermès, the richly illustrated work presents 137 Hermès window displays designed by Leïla Menchari between 1978 and 2013. An unforgettable journey!
Hermès presents the exhibition entitled “Hermès à tire-d’aile – Les mondes de Leïla Menchari” at the Grand Palais in Paris from 8 November to 3 December 2017.
Grand Palais – Galerie Sud
Daily from 10 am to 8 pm
Open on Fridays and Saturdays until 10 pm – Closed on Tuesdays