by Dilpreet BhullarSep 17, 2022
80 windows of various Hermès stores in all of France peep into a utopian spectacle comprising elements such as a mysteriously giant banana, a flying cake, funfair lights, and a bubbling volcano. The displays encapsulate the work of Dutch designer and artist Job Smeets, titled Life on Mars. The solo project, resulted from a direct partnership between Smeets’ Studio Job and the French luxury design atelier. It constitutes of 11 dystopian summer scenes brimming with playfulness and humour, and seeped in a neo-gothic canvas. The sculptures depict the world of a powerful superhero in an androgynous look where each window iteration zooms into a fragment of the futuristic universe the creature inhabits.
The starting point for the project for Tilburg-based Smeets was the idea of anticipating what the ultimate hot summer could look like. The vision of humans colonising Mars comes across in somewhat nonsensical narratives with Smeets’ window displays. The interpretations include a game show in the red sand, frites shop on a volcano, fire hydrants spilling fire, Mars rover doubling as a table, and even the Hermès horse diving under the table.
Known for passionately weaving ‘serious fun’ in all that he does, Smeets’ artistic practice goes beyond the creation of surrealist objects and artefacts. His oeuvre combines architecture, interior design, furniture, lighting, and spatial sculptural art where irony and iconography remain key to the genesis of each work. Life on Mars is Smeets’ first collaboration of Hermès as a nationwide window display series for Summer 2023. The conceptualisation of the artwork took off from the Dutch designer’s visit to the Hermès family Museum in Paris from where he picked visual cues from the company’s archival history to create an otherworldly universe.
In tune with the 2023 Hermès theme, Astonishment, that focuses on the ability to be surprised, Smeets’ usage of a slew of ironic imagery catches the eye while creating a refreshing moodboard for displaying the company’s eclectic products. Some of the elements in the artwork have directly been taken from some of the artist’s previous works. This includes funfair lights that appeared in his 2019 sculptural wagon called B*llsh*t Circus, a banana that previously ran the show for the peculiar Banana Lamp, a bubbling volcano being a statement feature of Train Crash Table, and a flying cake referencing the ‘good life’ of a rare table lamp named Sex Cake.
“Hermès interprets my ideas in its own incredible way, from my drawings of this surreal utopia, or maybe you could call it a dystopia, but it’s a textile outcome created with fabrics, leathers, sand, intricate stitching that only the atelier of Hermès can produce,” Smeets says. “If this project was with my own atelier, the result would have be completely different as our materials are almost the opposite, so as an artist it’s an amazing moment to see how another atelier interprets my work into their form.”
Capturing the zeitgeist of our time where speculations of the future is dominating every sphere of our lives, Smeets’ work goes a step further in channelling happiness in the face of uncertainty. Life on Mars is up on display across all Hermès stores in France till September 2023 except the Rue de Faubourg store location which has an independent window design contract.
Previous works from Studio Job published on STIR include Embrace as the revival of a disused 19th century church façade in Dordrecht, a bronze sofa named Bring Yourself designed in honour of late Dutch designer Jan des Bouvrie, and an exclusive conversation with Job Smeets unpacking the wonderfully weird side of him in a video series called UNSCRIPTED.