SAN FRANCISCO — If retail today is part art, part science, then luxury leather goods company Delvaux is working both ends of the equation — most recently as a sponsor for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Wednesday party and preview for its upcoming “René Magritte: The Fifth Season” exhibition, opening May 19.
Just as the Belgium-based heritage brand seeks innovation in crafting techniques, it pursues art and inspiration, particularly from the iconic surrealist painter. There, in the twilight hours in the sky-lit museum, the company celebrated the artist alongside notable Bay Area personalities and art patrons, including donors, curators and Director’s Circle members.
The atmosphere, while festive, was also thoughtful. Guests in the foyer of the tall, circular building enjoyed piano classics, drinks and hors d’oeuvres — from charcuterie and shrimp-and-grits arancini to ice cream. Meanwhile, curators in the upper decks showcased works from the painter’s later period.
“This is one of the greatest shows of Magritte’s paintings in the world, and we have them here,” said SFMoMA’s Neal Benezra. The museum assembled more than 70 works in nine thematic galleries. Even more impressive, since the artist’s death, no more than two pieces from Magritte’s Dominion of Light series have been exhibited at once. But the museum managed to bring several together to form a series.
“I was working for two years to get even one, and I got zero. They have seven,” explained Didier Ottinger, the curator for Magritte’s 2016 exhibition in Centre Pompidou in Paris, which Delvaux also sponsored.
To create an immersive experience, the SFMoMA crafted the galleries on the painting’s themes, museum curators told WWD. The walls picked up colors from the cloud-filled skies, and there was also an interpretive gallery featuring 3-D cameras, so guests could place themselves in the artist’s surreal environments.
A dinner for the Director’s Circle, board members and collectors marked a highlight of the evening. The diverse circle of tastemakers and business luminaries included designer Yves Béhar; former Facebook president Sean Parker; investor Charles Schwab; Fondation Magritte’s Charly Herscovici, and Delvaux artistic director Christina Zeller, among others.
For Zeller, the event is the latest chapter in the company’s love affair with the artist’s work.
Founded in Brussels in 1829, Delvaux describes itself as the oldest leather luxury goods company in the world. With tradition behind it, the brand prides itself on not pandering to the hype machine but offering substance. Zeller sees a similar sensibility in Magritte. “The world of Magritte and Delvaux match, in that things look very simple, but are in fact very complex,” she told WWD. Delvaux feels a kinship with the artist and Belgian compatriot.
The relationship is no passing fancy for the Magritte foundation’s Charly Herscovici either. “Delvaux is not for cash, cash, cash; it’s for quality,” he said. “I’m very happy that, for Magritte and Delvaux, it is a marriage.”
The partnership has been celebratory and fruitful. Delvaux has worked with the foundation on a few products, as well as sponsorship for the Centre Pompidou’s 2016 exhibit. And today, the company works on its New York boutique behind privacy walls decked out in Magritte themes. The apples and bowler hats nod to works such as “Man in The Bowler Hat” and “Son of Man.”
“The paintings are, in a way, illustrative. It’s very easy to interpret them into accessories,” Zeller explained. “The limited-edition Magritte collection a few years ago [featured] cloud linings inside, small accessories showing the hat and the apple. Next year, we will launch a bigger line for men — with a computer bag, tote, etc. It will be eye-catching and very surrealist.”
For now, Delvaux seemed delighted merely to celebrate its muse once more.