Sydney artist Anna-Wili Highfield’s deconstructed horse sculptures, titled Metamorphosis of Pegasus, played a starring role in the opening of the new Hermès store, which spans the corner of Melbourne’s iconic Collins and Exhibition streets, in the heritage-listed Harley House.
I flew in on Thursday night for the celebration, proposed simply as a “winter dinner,” but what unfolded was just so much more. Following a rendezvous at the store, designed by Paris agency RDAI (responsible for all Hermès spaces worldwide), horse-drawn carriages—long part of Melbourne’s CBD landscape—carted us to a secret dinner location, the astounding neo-gothic vaulted chamber known as the Cathedral Room, in the former stock exchange building.
Highfield’s installation sat in the center, among six columns of Harcourt granite from regional Bendigo, which was, according to Hermès Australia’s ever-chic managing director, Karin Upton Baker, carried in by horses in the 1880s. The sculptures, stitched together from archival cotton rag, represent Highfield’s fourth collaboration with Hermès: A piece will be presented for the Melbourne windows and, later, Sydney, while part of the installation will travel to China for an exhibition.
Around this a very nonchalant party unfolded. Acclaimed Australian chef Mark Best served up a grand gesture of French fare, and a dance performance was curated by the Sydney Dance Company’s artistic director, Rafael Bonachela. As the night wore on, the intimate gathering, attended by friends of Hermès, indulged in what is best described as horseplay.
The new store is located at Harley House, 71 Collins St., Melbourne.
For more information on Anna-Wili Highfield, visit www.annawilihighfield.com.
Photos: Courtesy of Jess Blanch