It's hard to imagine Paris's Place Vendome without the dazzling haute joaillerie boutiques that line the square. But when, in 1858, an entrepreneurial Frederic Boucheron set up the destination's first jewellery shop at number 26, he ushered in the beginnings of what would become one of the industry's retail epicentres.
As Boucheron marks its 160th anniversary this year, it has turned to the creator of the square itself, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, for the inspiration behind the location of an immersive exhibition delving into the storied history of the maison. Vendorama will take place from 12 to 28 January in the jardin Mansart, which contains a private residence designed by the architect, and sits within the grounds of the grand Monnaie de Paris.
While the company has since expanded to stores around the world, 26 Place Vendome remains its spiritual home. The show takes visitors on a tour of this extraordinary building past and present, guided by whimsical characters including live actors and the house's former resident cat and emblem of the maison, Wladimir, whose own stories are brought to life via a dedicated smartphone app.
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The exhibition begins in the opulent Salon Chinois, a secret cabinet commissioned by Boucheron in the early 20th century and used as a place to discreetly host its top clients. Within its library, animated books reveal more about the company itself, Frederic Boucheron and his iconic creations – including the enduring Question Mark necklace that still features today – as well as the more contemporary Serpent Boheme collection, which has remained a core part of the brand's offering since its introduction in 1968.
Journeying to the upper floors of the building, first an insight into high jewellery design is given through an unprecedented display of gouache artwork, including the opportunity to paint colours onto your own sketch of the Question Mark necklace, before moving on to the manufacture. Here the four main tradespeople involved – the setter, jeweller, polisher and cutter – are highlighted through a series of interactive videos.
The final stages unveil some of its creations in the flesh – from the contemporary aesthetic of the Quatre collection, launched in 2004, to the Reflet watch that celebrated its 70th birthday last year – which continue to be reinterpreted in new and inventive ways today.
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