LONDON — Walking down London’s now-quiet, crowd-free Bond Street, it’s impossible to miss the 9-foot-high Hermès Birkin sculpture standing tall outside Fenwick’s department store.
It’s not a marketing ploy by Hermès or a play by Fenwick’s to lure shoppers back into its stores, or even the typical fashion-meets-art collaboration. Far from it. The art piece is the latest in a series called “Tools of Endearment” by Kalliopi Lemos, a Greek-born, London-based artist best known for her large-scale public installations. The piece made its debut on the shopping thoroughfare earlier this month, as part of Mayfair Art Weekend.
Also in the series is a steel corset; a stiletto featuring a knife in place of a heel, and a braid, part of the open-air Frieze Sculpture showcase.
Lemos’ intention from the get-go was to use her art to reflect on “how society deals with femininity, women’s rights and the condition of women within society.”
In the case of the giant steel Birkin bag, the idea was to create a symbolic container for women in which to place their aspirations for the future and, equally, their frustrations.
The choice of one of the most expensive materials and styles from a world-famous luxury brand was a key part of the equation for Lemos, who sculpted the surface of the steel to resemble ostrich leather.