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An Opportunity to Become Alice

Star Bags. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Star Bags. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Little Room of Wanders is a veritable Alice in Wonderlandesque experience where mundane objects take on new purposes whilst retaining an aesthetically delightful appearance.  Each item in the Hermès family collection is embellished with an exquisitely crafted explanation by the renowned French children’s illustrator Philippe Dumas, who is also the grandson of Hermès Founder, Emile Dumas, and the designer of Hermès carrés, at the Saut Hermès in Paris.

On entering the small orange inspired cube located at the centre of the Asian Civilization Museum front lawn, one is transported to a particularly well-curated, visual snapshot of an individual’s silver spooned life during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Hermès family collection encompasses both city and country pursuits and fine craftsmanship – be it a Chinese lacquered saddle from the Qing dynasty or a Spanish studded travel chest.  There is a strong focus on equestrian pursuits and luxury goods that would have embellished the lifestyles of not only their customers but also their own.

Man’s Travel Case. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Man’s Travel Case. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

The Little Room of Wanders exhibition features numerous beautiful objects such as the Man’s Travel Case signed by Martin Guillaume Biennais (circa 1798-1809) as well this author’s particular favourite the Walking Stick with Perfume Vaporizer signed by Brigg London (1897).  Both these creations were envisaged to cater for a gentleman in two very different scenarios.  The first was designed to meet his toiletry needs whilst travelling and the second was more likely to be used in an urban setting.  The travel case is at once a portable writing table, toilet bag, treasure chest and is of historical importance.  It was made for Cambaceres (1753-1824), the juriconsult who helped pen Napoleon’s civil code.  Ideal for those hot walks thorough the urban setting, the walking stick’s silver head can be unscrewed and the inside of the cane filled with perfume.  According to Menehould de Bazelaire, Director of Cultural Heritage, Hermès International.

Walking Stick with Perfume Vaporizer. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Walking Stick with Perfume Vaporizer. Image Copyright Guy Lucas de Peslouan

“There are many sticks in this collection that evoke the fact that when you take a walk, you are expecting an encounter, a romantic one at that.  There is always the possibility of seduction, and so Brigg of London invented a walking stick that held a dab of one’s favourite perfume, in case of the charming encounter or when it gets hot…You just spray it on as you walk a few drops of your favourite scent.

Canne-ombrelle La Soleil. Image Copyright Hermes.

Canne-ombrelle La Soleil. Image Copyright Hermes.

Another fine example of the flâneur inspired lifestyle can be seen with the Parasol Walking Stick which is created using silk, pheasant feathers a porcelain handle and shaft painted in a hawthorn pattern.

Winged Saddle. Image Copyright Hermes

Winged Saddle. Image Copyright Hermes

This fusion of aesthetics, functionality and form is in the life blood of design at Hermès. The larger exhibition, Leather Forever at the ArtScience Museum, which accompanies Little Room of Wanders continues to explore Hermès’ relationship with equestrian pursuits, craftsmanship and, in particular, leather. There are a number of show stoppers in terms of the famous people their leather goods are associated with and to celebrate the exhibition, Hermès has created five Kellydoll bags in honour of each decade of Singapore’s independence. Some of the designs are pure figments of the imagination such as the saddle which asks: if Pegasus were to have a saddle, what would that saddle look like? For sheer fun, the personalised apple holder and leather gardening wheel barrow for the lady (that has everything) are amongst my favourites.

Apple Holder 2, Image Copyright Studio Des Fleurs

Apple Holder 2, Image Copyright Studio Des Fleurs

 

These two exhibitions were a delight to see and the educational programme that accompanied the Leather for Ever exhibition featured craftsmen from the Hermès workshops in Paris demonstrating the art of leather working by creating some of its iconic bags on site.

 

Sally J. Clarke is a founder of ENECAA – a Central Asian arts services company, curator and arts writer.  

 

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