Walking into Grand Palais for the opening of the exhibition of forty years of Hermès windows by Leïla Menchari was magical. There was competing chickism at Paris Photo next door where J.P. Morgan had a private evening. I ran into Hugues Gall an old friend of Leïla Menchari, the creator of magic and Andrée Jaigu who is always on top of things. The Tunisian artist who started in 1961, was there and when I congratulated her she replied: “It was very hard work…”
“A window display is a way of telling a story… all my displays have been extravagant…” tells the artist who once asked Albert Féraud to create a meteorite that would rotate in space for the shop. With the regretted President Jean Louis Dumas whom she travelled with a lot, any adventure was possible, like ordering three tons of Tunisian sand that were delivered to Faubourg Saint Honoré or dealing with the real mice which started eating the wheat decorating the windows.
What we are seeing here is a reconstruction of the corner window of rue Boissy d’Anglas, which is very large and the center of attraction for clients and street passers alike.
I met Leïla Menchari in Hammamet twenty five years ago, when her neighbor, Frédéric Mitterrand, introduced me to her magical garden. She is an intimidating lady but so forceful that you can only fall under her charm. She inherited her house from a British American couple, Jean and Violet Henson, whom she had met as a child. She had walked up to their house from the beach and befriended them. Roses climb on palm trees, roman stones create steps, a basin with blue waterlilies floating, everything is magical about this house.
In 2007, Leïla travelled to Rajasthan and brought back exceptional silver artifacts which will inspire another Christmas window in 2008. the wooden silver throne, with lions will inspire silver saddles and suitcase shown on silver fox blankets. In the summer 2005, she had produced an Egyptian window with silk pharaohs, in Spring 1995, she had commissioned a wooden foot sculpture from Christina Renonciat. her decors were the perfect backgrounds for introducing leather furniture and fashion.
From being a young student at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Tunis to becoming the reigning decorator of Hermès, there was only one step: the trust that Jean-Louis Dumas put into this baroque artist, who had extravagant ideas and immense artistic demands. The Hermès windows used to be an obligatory visit when you arrived inParis. Let’s hope Hermès finds a new genius soon!
The exhibition goes on at Grand Palais till December 3 and entrance is free.
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