Visions of the mystic splendors of the exotic East have long beguiled the imagination of Western artists. Nineteenth century painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Eugène Delacroix were enchanted by the stories and decorative objects imported from the newly colonized French territories. Fascinated by the allure and mystique of the “Orient” or what we now know as Northern Africa and the Middle East, Western artists appropriated the masterful techniques and combined them with their own imaginative visions to create a pastiche of two cultures often referred to as “Orientalism.” The term has since fallen out of favor, yet the mystic charm of its artistic tradition continues to inspire the creative imagination.
In the new exhibition “Orient-Hermès” at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Leïla Menchari, one of the luxury brand’s premier designers, has combined the sumptuous products of the label with her own images and memories of a childhood spent in Northern Africa. Renowned for her exquisite design concepts found in the store’s Paris windows, the Tunisian-born designer has created eight individual vignettes that capture the allure and fantasy of the mythic East.