Hermès Editeur Hiroshi Sugimoto

Hermès Éditeur
Hiroshi Sugimoto

Couleurs de l’ombre is an edition of 20 scarves produced in 7 units each, creating a total of 140 scarves.

The artist

Born in Tokyo in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto moved to the United States in 1970 to study photography at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. 
It was at this school that he incorporated the key principles of conceptual art and minimalism, which continue to inform the technical and intellectual rigour of his work. His works have been presented all over the world, at both solo and group exhibitions. 

The project

Hermès and Hiroshi Sugimoto first collaborated back in 2003, with the L’histoire de l’histoire exhibition in the Forum space of the Hermès store in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s approach is to constantly explore the resources of traditional know-how to establish an inventive dialogue between history, a tradition, a practice, and a contemporary expression that echoes the Hermès philosophy to the full.

In 2010, when Hermès artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas visited Hiroshi Sugimoto’s studio in Tokyo, the artist showed him his Colors of Shadow project. “I remember it very clearly. In the centre of a large light-filled room, rising like a column from the floor to the ceiling, there stood a crystal prism of immense density and immaculate clarity. It was an experimental observation device that allowed the sun’s rays to pass through the prism each morning, creating a world of colours, projected like shadows onto the studio’s white walls,” he recalls.  

For a decade, Hiroshi Sugimoto used a Polaroid camera to methodically photograph the subtle variations in these gradations of colour, which were different every time. The result was a chromatic epiphany which the artist suggested transferring to the Hermès silk scarf.

This work was inspired by the scientific experiments conducted by Newton, then Goethe, on the origins of colour, that is to say the breakdown of light, its capture, and the emotional impact of colours on human beings. This concrete phenomenon is materialised and exalted by Hiroshi Sugimoto in a infinite array of abstract images. Twenty Polaroids were selected to be reproduced onto silk in a limited edition of 20 scarves produced in 7 units, creating a total of 140 scarves measuring 140 cm x 140 cm.

This giant format was essential to fully reveal such an explosion of colour and to make permanent this work that was rendered ephemeral by its original Polaroid medium. In the final stage, the project presented a new technical challenge, one of the initial vocations of Hermès Éditeur: inkjet printing these skilful and ethereal gradations onto a very light silk twill. And so Couleurs de l’ombre was born.

The scarves

20 scarves produced in 7 units each.

The editions

  • Josef Albers

    For its first edition of works of art on silk, Hermès immediately thought of Josef Albers, one of the great colour theorists, and in particular his Homage to the Square series. Six of his works were selected and reproduced on silk, then produced in 200 units each.

  • Daniel Buren

    For its second edition of works of art on silk, Hermès invited renowned contemporary artist Daniel Buren to leave his imprint on house’s emblematic silk scarf. The exceptionally large-scale and highly original result, entitled Photos-souvenirs au carré, was a series of 365 unique scarves.

  • Julio Le Parc

    For its fourth edition, Hermès invited Julio Le Parc, a major figure in the kinetic and optic art world, to put his own stamp on the iconic silk scarf. A true ode to colour, his proposal entitled Variations autour de La Longue Marche led to the edition of 10 series of six unique scarves.

Raphaël Serano