The rise of fashion brand shops around Mayfair is often decried by the trade, but this month a local gallery is leaning into the similarities between fine art and high-end fashion.
Omer Tiroche Gallery’s exhibition The Art of Hermès suggests that the French company’s handbags may be considered sculptural items to enhance and complement art of the 1950s-80s.
In the show, which runs from October 15-December 18, top examples of Hermès bags are presented alongside works of art by modern masters such as Christo, Andy Warhol and Piero Manzoni.
Each artwork is paired with a chromatically and thematically similar handbag. For example, Lucio Fontana’s Concetto Spaziale, which features a hole and graffito on an ebonised black painting, is shown with a So Black Kelly bag, which has black hardware on matt black alligator skin. It is not just the colour that unites these and other pieces, the gallery suggests, but the importance of materiality and process.
Also featured in the show is Andy Warhol’s Jackie (1964), shown with a Kelly Touch Bleu Encre. Beyond their similar shades, the pairing of painting and bag points to the importance of celebrity both to Hermès and Pop Artists such as Warhol. The ‘Kelly’ bag was named after Grace Kelly, while Jackie depicts US first lady Jackie Kennedy.
Hermès bags are each made by hand, assigned an individual serial number and stamped with an alphabetical letter to denote the year of production.
Although the company was founded in 1837, it was initially a harness workshop. Nearly 100 years later in 1922 it expanded its offerings to include handbags, modelled on original saddle bag designs.
All bags have been loaned from private collections. Artworks are available at prices ranging from $40,000-5m.