Damien Hirst and Lalique House, a fascinating French-British collaboration – Meanderings through France n° 133
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Ever since its creation 130 years ago, the Lalique House never stopped breaking new ground. From its founder René Lalique, a man of genius, to Damien Hirst, the most famous atypical contemporary British artist, each Lalique piece is a unique mixture of innovation and savoir-faire.
René Lalique was born in 1860 and is one of the most significant French artists, an icon of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. His sources of inspiration were diverse: from Ancient Egypt to Japan of the shoguns or Imperial China, from medieval magical bestiary to the Russian Ballet of Serge Diaghilev and of course mother nature. He was the first jewel designer and creator to use ivory, mother of pearl, opal, amethyst, horn, enamel or glass… mixing them with gold and precious stones, while all other jewellers of the time made sumptuous jewels overflowing with stones. He is the true inventor of modern jewellery.
His creations were successful at once. Aristocrats, actresses, socialites and actually any woman craved for his jewels and rich collectors bought and exhibit them in their houses the same way they did with their paintings or sculptures. One of the most outstanding collections is the Gulbenkian’ s collection that can be seen at the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon. Lalique took more and more interest in glass and in 1921 he opened his own glassworks in Wingen-sur-Moder, in Alsace. They still are today the only place in the world to produce Lalique glass and crystal pieces.
His fairy bottles of perfume ordered by famous perfumers, his Art Deco vases, boxes, sculptures… were as successful as the jewels had been. His unique style for working glass expresses itself in the now famous technique based on the contrast between transparent and frosted glass. This technique is particularly well showcased in the luxurious décor that he created for the Pullman express train that took lucky ones to the French Riviera or for the French liner Normandie.
After René Lalique was gone in 1945, his children Suzanne and Marc, and later his grand-daughter Marie-Claude carried on the family name, never stopping innovating and creating new ranges of jewels, perfumes, glass and crystal items. The Lalique House was taken over by a Swiss Society, Art & Fragrance, in 2008. Today Lalique still is on the cutting edge of innovation. The Wingen-sur-Moder glassworks have been modernized, the Lalique Museum was open in Wingen-sur-Moder in 2011, an Art Deco line of furniture and home decoration was created in 2011. Today Silvio Denz, chairman of Art & Fragrance, invites contemporary artists to create art works that take form in the hands of the extraordinarily skilful workers of Lalique who are able to make a 40 kg sculpture out of a single mass of molten crystal.
Damien Hirst was first invited to create for Lalique in 2015 and he creates a few new works of art each year ever since. Through his art installations, sculptures, paintings and drawings, Hirst explores the complex links between art, life and death. His crystal creations express the same questioning. Thanks to the award-wining craftspeople working at the Lalique workshop that revived a 5 thousands years old technique, the lost-wax process, Hirst’s symbology is perfectly retranscribed. This “Eternal” collection is on display in the Parisian Lalique showroom located at 11 rue Royale close to Concorde square.
Using clear, frosted or coloured crystal, seven sculptures and five panels have been created, each issued in a limited edition of 20 or 35 numbered copies signed by the artist. Skulls, doves, scissors, snakes, crosses, daggers and butterflies symbolize eternal sleep, truth, sin, belief, memory or eternal beauty. Watching them, one gets lost in contemplation between admiration and introspection.
To go even further in Lalique’ s world you can visit the Lalique Museum in Wingen-sur-Moder (60 km north-east of Strasbourg) where over 650 outstanding works are on display. They recount the career of René Lalique as well as the work of his successors, from Art Nouveau to Art Deco and contemporary creations. The present temporary exhibition named “Back to the Sources- The World that Inspired Lalique” explores Lalique’s sources of inspiration as well as his daughter’s. Suzanne Lalique took a large part in the creations of the Lalique House, drawing inspiration from Pre-Colombian, African and Khmer art. By juxtaposing Lalique’s creations with the works that inspired him, this exhibition sheds new light on this artist’s unfettered imagination.
More about the Lalique Museum in Wingen-sur-Moder: http://www.musee-lalique.com/en
More about Lalique House: http://www.lalique.com/en
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny and courtesy of Lalique