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December 09, 2016

Hermès Presents Robert Dallet’s Fierce And Fragile Cats

Text by Huzan Tata and Simone Louis

Hermès presents a unique exhibition to raise awareness about the conservation of big cats

Click on any image to view in larger gallery

French artist Robert Dallet’s fascination with cats started when he encountered a margay, a creature slightly larger than a domestic cat. And soon, the animal became a passion, an obsession, and a large part of the creator’s canvases. In association with global wild cat conservation organisation Panthera, luxury fashion house Hermès presents an exhibition featuring the artist’s great works. Explore Dallet’s paintings, drawings and sketches that bring to life eight species of big cats. ‘By making Dallet’s hitherto little-known genius available to a worldwide audience on the tenth anniversary of his death with a travelling exhibition, a book, and a generous scarf to support Panthera…we hope to help raise awareness about the precarious existence of wild cats and their environments on a global basis’, says Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of the fashion house.

The exhibition features interactive elements like art boards with adult colouring sheets, and peepholes that take you down the rabbit hole of Dallet’s work. They also have a provision where you can send postcards (that come with these prints) to friends across the globe.

Q/A with Pierre-Alexis Dumas

On the homage to Dallet…
“I always knew we were sitting on a treasure at Hermès, because my father had acquired a lot of Dallet’s artworks, not only to make scarves but also because he loved the original paintings. I believe it is important to explore the past in order to reinvent the future, so for a long time I wanted to do something with this. When I met Thomas Kaplan (natural resources investor and founder of Panthera), we ended up speaking at length about big cats and I felt the need to show him the artwork we had. He was stunned, firstly by the magnificence of it, and secondly by the fact that he didn’t know about Dallet. We felt that it was time now for the world to learn about him and his work as well.”

On his favourites from the exhibition…
“I have two, actually. This painting that Dallet made for what eventually became one of our most iconic scarves — Jungle Love. The central motif is two leopards painted in a very realistic manner. But then you look around them and see that the border depicts birds, butterflies and flowers in a more colourful and theatrical style. It also highlights the ecosystem of codependence. And beyond that, when you step back, you see that this border is in the shape of a heart! The second is his representation of the snow leopard. She comes across as very sleek, and I just love the colour palette because it’s not just grey; it has very subtle hues. The composition is wonderful — she’s walking diagonally downward in a rectangular frame, so even though it’s a still image, there’s a sense of movement and tension. It commands your full attention.”

On his love for nature…
“Our annual theme for 2016 was declared to be ‘nature at full gallop’. Everything we are is impacted by our interaction with the environment that fosters us. I wanted us to explore and embrace what nature means to us. The passion started for me as a child, walking in the hills with my father. I’m half French and half Greek, so for the summers we would spend time in Greece and we’d always go hiking. Now, whenever I need to calm down within this urban chaos, I close my eyes and remember those times. It’s both humbling and elevating.”

Fierce and Fragile: Big Cats in the Art of Robert Dallet is on display at the Hermès Flagship Store, Mumbai from December 10, 2016 – January 12, 2017

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