Piaget’s Chief Executive on the Swiss Watchmaker’s History of Collaborating with Artists, From Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali
Artists have long worked with Piaget to conceive special projects, providing ample inspiration to generations of the brand's artisans.
While contemporary art in all its iterations was the star of the show at the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, a group show titled “Dyfunctional” that was dedicated to design—or rather “design-art”—received a fair amount of attention this year.
For the exhibition, the Dutch design duo, the Verhoeven Twins (represented by Carpenters Workshop Gallery) produced a group of about a dozen carefully constructed works, titled Moments of Happiness, that were shown on the third-floor loggia of the Ca d’Oro palace, a gothic palazzo located on Venice’s Grand Canal, where “Dysfunctional” was held.
The works, all crafted from industrial glass, consisted of clusters of interconnected orbs designed to resemble soap bubbles, whose function was to reflect the ambient light on the iridescent surface of the spheres. Together, the pieces added a sense of whimsy to the otherwise stately space.
Piaget, the Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler, owned by the Richemont group, commissioned the installation, but gave the design duo “carte blanche” to unleash their creativity, adding only a small, 24-carat, yellow-gold fixture, used to attach some of the pieces to the ceiling, to evoke Piaget’s gold-smithing heritage.
Against a setting sun that cast its last rays on the gleaming shapes of Moments of Happiness, Piaget’s chief executive, Chabi Nouri, spoke to artnet News about Piaget’s artist collaborations and how its art initiatives have long expanded the brand’s creative horizons.
Tell us how this collaboration came to be with The Verhoeven Twins and Carpenters Workshop Gallery.
At Piaget, we always try to integrate art into our pieces, often by marrying our know-how with an art-based craft. We were looking for a partner in Venice, and the opportunity with Carpenters Workshop Gallery and the Verhoeven Twins seemed a perfect choice. We were happy to meet the gallery’s founders, Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail, and embark on this journey with them. In their gallery, they place art and craft on an equal footing, a positioning that really resonated with us. That is precisely what we do at Piaget, with the fusion of our own art and creativity, which is what you see in our handcrafted gold or our work with stones.
This collaboration has allowed us to look at the work of other artists, and take inspiration from their art, and to bring it into our own environment. It helps our artisans to push their own boundaries. Moments of happiness are what Piaget is all about. Our spirit, echoed in our current Sunny Side of Life campaign, is all about light, joyful moments that are positive yet dynamic. Our history has been driven by a positive outlook and the optimism of Piaget’s founding family.
Is Piaget becoming an art patron?
What defines the product of houses like ours as a “luxury product” is that it is made by hand. Collaborating with artists is a natural thing for us because, like many artists, we often produce one-of-a-kind pieces made by hand. For Piaget, working with artists is nothing new; in a way, we have been doing it for 140 years, because our own in-house artisans are real artists. But we also had an amazing jewelry collaboration with Salvador Dali in 1967; we had ties to Andy Warhol, and we worked with Arman, Pierre et Gilles, Richard Avedon, Willie Rizzo and many others. Working with artists is something we want to keep alive for the inspiration that it brings to our own artisans.
Why is the contemporary art platform, specifically, relevant to Piaget?
The connection to contemporary art is relevant to Piaget because our own creations are works of art made by highly trained artists. We think of our own pieces as multi-dimensional artworks, especially since they are often unique, just like art pieces. What we do is bring art into the small world of a watch. Within our Maison, we have a certain skillset that has been passed on for generations. With every new piece, our artisans invent or actually re-invent their own art. Even after forty years at Piaget, many tell me that they are still perfecting their skills, learning new ways, and expanding their own artistic boundaries.
What other art forms or art initiatives is Piaget involved with?
We are not confined to contemporary art. We have worked with artisans from the Vatican who practice the art of micro-mosaics, in existence since the 15th century. By bringing that know-how into our own creations, we help to preserve it. For the sake of brand authenticity, we stay focused on those arts that are directly relevant to Piaget’s heritage, namely our savoir-faire in the art of crafting gold and working with colored stones. Those two platforms offer a wide range of possibilities for engaging in outside collaborations.
Why was it important for Piaget to come to the Venice Biennale with these pieces?
Venice is a special place for us because, since 1997, we have been involved in the restoration of some of the icons of this city. For 30 years now, we have been committed to maintaining the working mechanisms of the Tower Clock in Piazza San Marco and the clock in the courtyard of the Doges Palace. Our technical and scientific knowledge has served to preserve those functional works of art, an engagement that has been very inspirational to Piaget.
Do you have any future art projects or artist collaborations that you can talk about?
I cannot speak of other artists now. In the course of this year, we will unveil additional pieces we have commissioned with the Verhoeven Twins with different gold elements, which will be shown around the world. The Twins will also be creating five unique art pieces with gold details made by Piaget to be displayed in our key flagship boutiques throughout the year, to demonstrate how Moments of Happiness has embodied our spirit.
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