15 Oct 2020 • Retail
Can shop windows tell a story? How Levi van Veluw creates narratives for Hermès
Dutch contemporary artist Levi van Veluw has created the inaugural window displays for Hermès’ new RDAI-designed Stockholm location at Nordiska Kompaniet, a heritage-listed department store.
The Stockholm project, which interprets the world of the artist as a craftsman through a mechanical sculpture, is van Veluw’s fifth collaboration with the luxury brand. We spoke with the artist about his long-standing relationship with Hermès, how he blends his creative vision with that of the company and the way he hopes passersby experience the windows, a spatial typology Hermès has long been champion of.
Your relationship with Hermès began years ago. How did you first begin working together?
LEVI VAN VELUW: I’ve been in contact with Hermès since the beginning of my career, but during Art Basel they got interested in one of my first installations, a room covered with thousands of wooden blocks. The first installation I designed was for Maison Hermès in Shanghai. I worked in China for four weeks in a workshop together with several artisans to create a completely handcrafted window. Over the past six years, I have developed five projects with Hermès: these artworks clearly inspired my personal work and follow that evolution.
Just like my personal work, they develop through drawing inspiration from previous projects – mixing, reinterpreting, analysing and inventing. At the same time these windows have followed their own path, with a strong independent signature especially for Hermès – almost like a more colourful alter-ego of me as an artist.
What was your brief for the Stockholm windows?
Each year, Hermès has a theme that inspires the creation of the year: this year, it is ‘Innovation in the Making’. The briefing is just to guide you in the right direction – they never tell me what colours, material or shapes to use. It feels like carte blanche every time. This is the main reason why I’m attracted to work for Hermès: I have no need to do commissioned work as my work is exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, but the projects are always so special that I love to do it.
In this time where everything is changing and questioned, creativity and innovation are the hope for a better future
Tell me about the spatial concept and what you did to bring that to life.
Creation has always been the driving force of humanity. Especially in this time where everything is changing and questioned, creativity and innovation are the hope for a better future. The strength of Hermès is not to only focus on the result, but the story behind the creation, the craftsmanship and the process. The awareness of this process gives the object a soul – it transcends matter and form.
Within this window I will show in a way the romantic world of the artist as a craftsman. Not just art, but the creation of art. In the middle a sunray shaped pattern is hanging on ropes. The shape is bright and colourful. The inside of the pattern is covered with mirrors, with a large disc behind it slowly rotating; the mirrors deform the objects and give a surprising effect.
How do you hope passersby engage with the window?
Perhaps some people passing by will not visit the store – still, you also make the window for all passersby. I hope people initially get drawn in by the colours and beauty of the window and, when looking closer, question what they are looking at. It is not a clear image, it will take time to interpret what you see, and that’s exactly what I want – this way you are not told what to see, instead, the window becomes an experience.