Radiant; Elegant Art.

By Mary Wheelehan

Paris is alive with bees. Despite the challenges faced by the global bee population, these Parisian bees live well; some even take residence in France’s most iconic landmarks, such as the carefully kept hives on Notre Dame’s south side, housing about 200,000 individuals. (Miraculously, they survived the blaze that devastated the cathedral in April.) Other Parisian bees find homes in different places: by bedside tables, on the sleek tops of vanities, and inside handbags of all types. These golden bees are of a particularly luxurious kind; they are the famous emblem of Guerlain, the elegant French beauty brand.

The emblem of Guerlain, the bee, featured on a decorative bottle.
Photograph courtesy of Cyril Attias.

Guerlain’s affection for our best pollinators extends beyond the trademark that decorates its fragrance bottles. Guerlain’s commitment to environmental advocacy and sustainability is just as admirable as its products. The company has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2028, after halving its carbon footprint by 2020. Since 2015, Guerlain has supported the French Apidology Observatory, which aims to train 30,000 new beekeepers and create ten million new bee colonies in Europe by 2025.

Vik Muniz, Bee, Photography: 2016
Gaïa, what are you becoming?

Guerlain’s environmental awareness does not end with sustainable business models and financial support for NGOs; it also extends to include the arts. Today, Guerlain is inviting the public to share in an all-new event on environmentalism. From October 17th to November 8th, The House of Guerlain will host Gaïa, what are you becoming?, an art exhibition dedicated to the precarious state of our natural world and the responsibility we all bear to it. The exhibition will feature the work of twenty international artists, including Allora & Calzadilla, Russell Crotty, Andy Goldsworthly, Eva Jospin, Clay Ketter, Lucy & Jorge Orta, Ibrahim Mahama and Vik Muniz, and Li Xin.

Fabrice Monteiro, Prophecy #6, Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag: 2014
Gaïa, what are you becoming?

The works produced by these artists, each of them themed around the environment, are as varied as they are captivating. Watercolor, textiles, mixed-media, photography, and video all feature in the exhibition. This wide variety of materials and styles, combined with the environmental theme, truly draws attention to the heart of the exhibition: the intersection between art and the natural world, and the ways in which contemporary art is even more aware of the environmental movement than its predecessors.

Douglas White, Black Sun, fragments of found objects, steel, fiberboard, yew roots: 2010
Gaïa, what are you becoming?

Guerlain is not the only luxury brand with a commitment to art and awareness. Loewe, the Spanish fashion house, also held an exhibition this month. Loewe’s exhibition, Mr. Kramer’s Dream House, featured the work of Josh Faught, an American artist specializing in hand-woven textiles. Each piece in the exhibition addressed LGBTQ+ identity, particularly as it relates to activism and the desire to make a human connection.

Josh Faught, Off-Nite, textile: 2018
Mr. Kramer’s Dream House

Guerlain and Loewe demonstrate that the best brands don’t only provide excellent products; they also participate in bigger discussions, engaging with their communities and encouraging artistic thought. Perhaps most importantly, they also ask questions, challenging us to contemplate our shared world and the places each of us occupy within it.

Tonight, on its opening night, Guerlain’s Gaïa, what are you becoming? promises an exhibition of thought-provoking art just like its patron goddess: both beautiful and powerful.

View Gaïa, what are you becoming? at the Guerlain House in Paris, free of charge, October 18th–November 8th. Monday–Saturday from 10:30–20:00, and Sunday 12:00–20:00.

Loewe’s Mr. Kramer’s Dream House exhibition has already closed, but Josh Faught’s incredible textile work is viewable on his website. Check it out here.

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