Interview by Holly Stuart Hughes
Inside the Gallery at Hermès
Cory Jacobs is the curator for the Gallery at Hermès, located on the top floor of the luxury retailer’s Madison
Avenue store in New York City. A graduate of Barnard College with a degree in art history, Jacobs began as a
picture editor at Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine before moving to Spin and New York, among others. She
has won numerous awards and nominations from American Photography, the Association of Magazine Editors,
Communication Arts and the Society of Publication Designers, and has judged competitions for American
Photography, Critical Mass, Festival International de Mode et de Photographie à Hyères and PDN. In 2009,
Jacobs started working for the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as the curator for the Gallery at Hermès and still
consults on editorial, advertising and book projects.
PDN: How long has there been a gallery at Hermès?
Cory JaCobs: The gallery opened in 2000 and over the years has presented
many wonderful shows by photographers like Bruce Davidson and William
Klein. Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman and artistic director of Hermès from
1978 to 2006, was a huge fan of photography. He was the one who decided that
the top floor of the Madison Avenue retail store should be a gallery dedicated
exclusively to photography. In fact, Jean-Louis Dumas made a large investment
in Leica when the company was about to go bankrupt. He was known to always
have his Leica with him.
It was his son, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, now the artistic director of Hermès,
who decided in 2008 to formalize and consolidate their different worldwide
philanthropic commitments with the creation of the foundation. I came on
just after that in 2009 and the goal was to develop consistent and strong programming. The foundation oversees six galleries worldwide and also supports
initiatives in the performing arts, craftsmanship, education and environmental protection.
PDN: Is it a commercial or private gallery?
CJ: It is not a commercial gallery. The job of the foundation is to support the
artists in mounting a great exhibition. It is our hope that the exhibitions raise
awareness about the artists and in turn, it’s wonderful if they make sales from
the shows. But the artists or their dealers handle sales directly.
The foundation pays for all the expenses: the production of the show (
printing, mounting, framing, etc.) as well as the costs incurred for the opening. The
artist also has the support of Hermès’s ace New York City team: the event planning and press departments. For the foundation, this is an important part of
championing the artist and the work.
PDN: Does the gallery have regular followers and collectors that you’re
in touch with?
CJ: Yes, I would say there are now regulars who attend the exhibitions. Over the
last three and half years, I think people are starting to understand the mission
and point of view of the gallery. The openings are always a great mix of artists,
dealers, curators, collectors and press.
PDN: Is the audience for the Gallery at Hermès different from the audi-
ence of, say, a commercial gallery in Chelsea?
© Matt Ducklo
Top: Cory Jacobs. Above: “The Tiber Muse, 2nd-1st century B.C. Graeco-Roman, Minneapolis Institute
of Arts,” 2008, from the exhibit “Matt Ducklo & Matthew Monteith: Mind’s Eye.”
CJ: In some ways, yes. Since the gallery is on the top floor of the retail store,
there are shoppers who decide to make the trip upstairs even if they are not
photography buffs. And of course it’s great for people who might not normally
seek out the work to experience it. But since the formation of the foundation,
a goal has been to attract real art lovers to the space and make it a destination.
Several photographers I know who also teach photography have assigned their
classes to go see the shows and I think it’s safe to say they are not the usual
Madison Avenue customers.