Where better to celebrate 70 years of selling silk scarves than in China, the country that is the biggest producer and exporter of the fine material?
Hermès will unveil a two-week exhibit devoted to its emblematic silk scarves at Hong Kong's Pacific Place mall June 29. Called "Once Upon a Silk," the show was designed by American artist Hilton McConnico as a poetic homage to the house's formidable archives of silk carrés. McConnico used a Chinese legend about the origins of the Silk Route to organize the exhibit.
According to the fable, a silk-winged bird goes in search of the meaning of life, shedding its feathers along the way as it traverses the globe. These silky plumes become the Silk Route. McConnico uses the story to tell of various facets of Hermès' scarves. Exploring the power of graphics, for example, one room will juxtapose black and white and color versions of the same scarf motifs. Elsewhere, in an exploration of the tactile nature of silk, visitors will have to push through thick curtains of the fabric.
"What was most fascinating was laying out a mix of old and new scarves and seeing the evolution of designs and print over the years," commented McConnico. Hermès' first silk scarf design, made in 1937 and called "Jeu des Omnibus et des Dames Blanches," is among the archival pieces that made it into one of the artist's scenarios. Some 1,500 scarf designs have been created since then. "One year they're all about minimalism and sophistication only to turn extremely detail-oriented the next," added McConnico, who also commissioned fresh designs from certain Chinese artists for the show's second installment — this time titled "The Tale of Silk" — at the Shanghai Art Museum Sept. 8 to Oct. 7. Ding Yi's silk square, "The Rhythm of China," featuring an energetic patchwork of multicolored strips, will be one of the new works on show.
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