Audemars Piguet does ART BASEL
ART, DESIGN AND WELL-CRAFTED TIMEPIECES HAVE A LOT IN COMMON FOR THE FAMED WATCHMAKER.
Some things are under your eyes every day,” says Olivier Audemars. “But it can take an artist with a fresh perspective to help you see what was in front of you all along.” The small Swiss village of Le Brassus in the Vallée de Joux has been home to Audemars Piguet – one of the most celebrated and revered mechanical watchmakers – since 1875. The brand’s relationship with time and nature is deeply rooted within this mountainside idyll. Since 2012, this bond has been the focus of a series of art commissions – AP invites visual artists, architects and filmmakers to visit its home to explore the patterns found within its landscape. Only a few hours’ drive away, at the annual Art Basel exhibition (of which AP is a partner), Olivier Audemars is enthusiastically introducing his latest collaborations. As the great-grandson of the company’s co-founder, and a longstanding board member, Audemars is profoundly attached to Le Brassus, and has been instrumental in the brand’s swing towards the arts. Along with its sister events in Miami and Hong Kong, Art Basel is the largest and most important contemporary art fair of its kind and this year AP is presenting a new Collector’s Lounge created by Chilean artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz. Having created a space reflecting the forests native to the Vallée de Joux, the centrepiece for Errazuriz’s booth is an intricately sculpted tree, made from wood, but carved by robotic arms. Entitled ‘Second Nature’, the piece is designed to evolve and grow with the seasons. For Art Basel in Basel, the tree’s bare branches have buds, whilst in Miami in December, flowers will be added. “Trees in the ancient primary forest around Le Brassus were used by the famous violin maker Stradivarius for his instruments,” explains Errazuriz. “After careful cultivation and preservation for generations, one in 10,000 trees were considered to hold the right qualities to be turned into one of his masterpieces.”
The aim is to express that the tree must be transformed by man to reach its long-term potential. “There is also the resounding notion of responsibility and stewardship that we have to our environment,” he adds. Another collaborator is Chinese artist Cheng Ran, whose video installation, entitled ‘Circadian Rhythm’, depicts the powerful and ever-changing natural patterns found in the Swiss mountains, mixed over a pulsating soundscape. Changing tempo in response to imagery shot at different times of day, the work replicates the beats of nature overlaid with those of a mechanical watch, with the two eventually meeting in unison. Looking ahead to Art Basel Miami Beach in December, the brand will showcase a new large-scale work by Lars Jan, an American artist and activist based in Los Angeles. His installation will be centred on man’s relationship with time and nature, while promising to be highly experiential, integrating emerging technologies. A little closer to home, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has been commissioned to expand the watchmaker’s original 1875 headquarters in Le Brassus, by adding a spiralling museum that coils majestically up from the landscape. Dubbed Maison des Fondateurs (Home of the Founders), the building comprises a spiral-shaped pavilion that is partially sunk into the fields behind the existing workshops, revealing a series of glazed galleries and event spaces. The result of an architectural competition to create not just a sensitive addition to AP’S historic facilities, but also to the local landscape, construction is currently underway, with an opening expected in 2019. It’s clear the soul of the company sits firmly in the Vallée de Joux. But for Audemars Piguet, it seems the involvement with art stems from a practical desire to discover something new about their hometown, and about themselves. For Olivier Audemars, the way that people from different cultures and backgrounds perceive Le Brassus can be seen through the brand’s choice of collaborators. Indeed, it’s a novel way for an independent company located in a remote Swiss valley to maintain such a deep understanding of the parts of the world in which it is involved. “It’s a great inspiration to work with international artists who understand our core values and are able to creatively translate them through their own point of view,” says Audemars. “We aren’t here to collect art – we’re here to learn and be transformed by it.” audemarspiguet.com; artbasel.com
“WE AREN’T HERE TO COLLECT ART – WE’RE HERE TO LEARN AND BE TRANSFORMED BY IT.”
CLOCKWISE, FROM Sebastian FAR LE FT: Errazuriz’s ‘Second Nature’; Errazuriz overseeing the carving of the wood; the intricate work that goes into an Audemars Piguet piece; Audemars Piguet, perpetual calendar wristwatch with leap-year display - a world’s first, made in 1955; a still from Cheng Ran’s ‘Circadian Rhythm’.