When I read phrases that have been scattered across the city of Singapore – on banners pinned to what feels like every single lamp post – containing the words ‘Hermès’ and ‘Time’ it makes me want to use them together in a sentence of my own: “Will I ever earn enough money in my lifetime to justify an Hermès handbag?”
Regardless of the answer, yesterday LT (who works around the corner from the wonderful exhibition space that is now Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the venue) and I made it to the very well publicised Hermès’ ‘The Gift of Time’ touring exhibition which opened yesterday and is here in Singapore until 12th August (having been in Hong Kong previously) before heading to France, where it ends.
What I loved best about it? The venue.
I haven’t been back to Tanjong Pagar Station since the line from Woodlands was closed in 2010. I’m just so glad it escaped demolition and won the right to be preserved; it’s too good to loose and really is 1930’s architecture at its best. The impressive barrel vaulted ceiling, over what was the station’s main concourse, transports you straight back in time – to the day the last brick was laid and the smell of fresh paint still lingered – when you could be convinced that steam train travel was innovative and modern.
Very much shut up since the line closure, there’s only one way in. Every other possible point of access has big shouty signs proclaiming it ‘State Land’. (The Hermès exhibition banner can be all too easily missed if you’re walking to the exhibition against the flow of traffic from the CBD and it marks the only way in to the building, so be warned).
Essentially Hermès have built a pop up exhibition with about 6 rooms, all representing something connected to the passing of time. The exhibition space was actually very cleverly crafted to absorb some of the venue’s charm (see 2nd pic below which shows frescos of rustic scenes from Singapore and Malaysian rural life seen through Exhibition Room 1’s open ceiling slats).
Hilton McConnico, the first American to have his work displayed in the Louvre, has created the exhibition which is a great example of art meeting business (the underpinning, not-so-subtle message being that Hermès handbags are a great investment and really stand the test of time). But to be fair, the exhibits have more integrity than that and some really are creative works of genius.
I loved the floating messages, each capturing a moment in time whether written in Chinese, French or English. Exhibition staff handed out small twill cotton Hermès dust bags – meant to hold any watches so you can allow time to stand still (slightly makes you want to stick your fingers down your throat and be sick….a gimmick if ever there was one…but let’s face it, as close as I’ll come to an Hermès bag for the moment).
Things always sound so much better in French… [Feel the sun on your face and enjoy the moment]
But the most impressive manifestation of time was probably found in Room 3, containing what looked like something from the Mad Hatter’s tea party crossed with a creation by Savador Dali: a top spinning on its axis surrounded by a fragile dinner service on a table laid for 6.
We also loved the leafy ceiling of the signature orange ‘Tortoise Room’ which was beautiful and made from pure hand printed silk:
You can get round the whole thing in about 15 minutes flat, but leave time for the food which was the finale and great fun. There was orange, train style seating on both old platforms for you to munch your purchases from: either a nostalgic selection of retro biscuits that people grew up with here (think mini gems, squashed fly biscuits, Nyonya love letters etc all from a lovely biscuit store called Munch Munch) or delicious ice lollies by Popaganda that we loved so much, we each had 2 – think very natural fruit sorbets made from lots of fresh fruit with no added sugar, just low GI agave where necessary. The plain old raspberry flavor was fantastic but my fave was lemon & olive oil which was in fact so good that I’m planning on a large order for my freezer at home.
Hermès The Gift of Time is at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, 30 Keppel Road until 12th August. Open from 11am-9pm daily, entrance is free.