Aude­mars Piguet does ART BASEL

ART, DE­SIGN AND WELL-CRAFTED TIMEPIECES HAVE A LOT IN COM­MON FOR THE FAMED WATCHMAKER.

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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’.

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