Audemars Piguet first partnered with Art Basel in 2013. Two years later, it launched the first Audemars Piguet Art Commission, which brings artists like Sun Xun and Robin Meier to the watchmaker’s home of the Vallée de Joux to meet with master craftsmen and artisans and find inspiration for the creation of a new project.
Recently, the brand collaborated with the artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz for a second time, debuting the booth concept “Second Nature,” which was unveiled at Art Basel Hong Kong and is on view this week at the VIP lounge at Art Basel. Replicating nature, Errazuriz carved a tree out of a block of wood, creating a core piece of design that reflects the insanity of fabricating watches by hand, as he describes it.
Whitewaller spoke with Olivier Audemars, Audemars Piguet’s vice chairman of the board, about the watch brand’s ongoing collaboration with and support of contemporary artists. Last week, it was announced that Los Angeles-based Lars Jan was selected for the 3rd Audemars Piguet Art Commission. Of the choice, Olivier Audemars said in a statement, “We are thrilled to be working with Lars Jan on the 3rd Audemars Piguet Art Commission. His works use cutting-edge technology and bold creativity to explore some of today’s most pressing issues, while also incorporating an element of advanced mechanical complexity. It will be interesting to see how Lars translates our watchmakers’ skills and meticulous working methods into his adventurous and thought-provoking project.”
WHITEWALLER: You’ve said that seeing the brand and the Vallée de Joux through the eyes of an artist helps to rediscover the brand. Can you tell us more about what it’s been like to see artists like Sebastian Errazuriz, Robin Meier, Dan Holdsworth, Cheng Ran, or Sun Xun create a work inspired by the Vallée de Joux?
OLIVIER AUDEMARS: Artists have the capacity to see things differently. They are capable of incorporating the weak signals of the world in their artwork and offer a deeper and different understanding of what surrounds us. We have learned a lot and continue to learn and share with them. The images of Dan, for example, were completely different from the view we had of this valley. He opened our eyes about our environment and it was then that we decided to communicate differently about the brand. The company is different today than what it would have been without working with him.
Drawing on inspiration from the craftsmanship and technical excellence inherent to our watchmaking legacy, the Audemars Piguet Art Commission supports artists in the creation of new works which explore relationships between contemporary creative practice and complex mechanics, technology, and science. In fact, the objective of the commission is not for artists to create a piece about Audemars Piguet. We were actually surprised when we noticed Sun Xun had incorporated a woodcarving of our museum into his video Time Spy that was presented in Art Basel Miami Beach!
WW: Can you tell us about the 2017 Art Commission? How do you work with the yearly selected curator on choosing an artist each year?
OA: The Audemars Piguet Art Commission empowers the selected artists to explore new ideas and helps them take their practice to the next level. A distinctive feature of the commission is that Audemars Piguet not only provides the monetary support necessary to develop each project in full, but also connects artists to state-of-the-art technology, master craftsmen, technology labs, or other specialized design or fabrication expertise to execute works that express new insights into complexity, precision, technical excellence, and human ingenuity.
The commission process starts with the annual invitation of a guest curator, who is then tasked with scouting for artists whose work revolves around the themes of complexity and precision—topics that have long been a source of artistic interest and that share natural affinities with our heritage. Forde is invited as guest curator for the third Audemars Piguet Art Commission. She will be curating the works of the selected artist (name to be announced at Art Basel in Basel 2017) whose piece will be presented during Art Basel Miami Beach 2017.
WW: Bringing contemporary artists to the Vallée de Joux, have you noticed a connection between artists and artisans?
OA: Artists and artisans are close cousins. Basically, at home, you don’t need a painting or an artwork on your wall; an empty stone wall works just fine. You don’t need a mechanical watch on your wrist to know what time it is; your phone will probably be more accurate. In both cases, the object—a piece of art—creates emotion and speaks more to the heart than to the brain. In that respect, we feel at home when we are in contact with contemporary artists.
This article appears in Whitewaller Basel 2017, out this week.