Collectors of fine watches, timepiece enthusiasts and the VIP press from all over the world eagerly anticipate this one occasion: the SIHH / Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, an exclusive event set in Geneva that presents the crème de la crème in Fine Watch making, a world in which design, technique and artistic crafts are intimately connected. And this year's SIHH between 21 and 25 January 2013, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie fittingly chose to present the exhibition entitled ''Arts & Crafts & Design: Time according to Alessandro Mendini and his artisans'' which shines the spotlight on the work of acclaimed Italian architect and designer Alessandro Mendini. The exhibition is the result of a project undertaken by the Fondazione des Mestieri d’Arte in Milan in collaboration with the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris and has been made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Fine Watchmaking company Vacheron Constantin.
The exhibition’s central theme which is ''TIME'' is the first exhibition to open a dialogue between Fine Watchmaking and its relationship with design, the arts as well as the crafts used in other equally noble manual disciplines. Through a series of quirky decorative objects, it pays tribute to the exquisite art of the hand-made, showcasing the cooperative relationships that exist among art, design and artistic crafts on the one hand and the person who conceives the idea as well as the individual who materially interprets it, on the other. A passionate advocate of fine craftsmanship and heritage himself, Mendini desired for the objects on display to be designed to demonstrate the excellence of the main métiers d’art, using materials and techniques that are partly traditional and partly evolutionary or even experimental.
Set in an environment conceived by the Richemont Group’s creative director Giampiero Bodino, the exhibition presents thirteen pieces designed by Mendini created by craftsmen that are top in their respective fields. Each of the objects, signed by both Mendini and the artisan who made it, has its own aesthetic identity and visual language, coinciding with the specific characteristics of the materials that are used to make it. While each piece is unique and can be viewed as a ''character'' in its own right, the objects were also designed to be part of a consistent series in which the common thread is either logical or dimensional. Twelve of the pieces are displayed on tall black-and-white stands arranged in a circle to represent a perfect dial symbolising the passage of precious time as structured by moments, work and thought. The thirteenth piece is placed at the entrance, assuming the role of the winding crown of a watch. On each stand, in addition to the work, visitors will find images by Milanese photographer Emanuele Zamponi showing how the creation of the object began. By opening a visual dialogue between the creation process and the finished product, the images pay tribute to the master craftsmen’s incredible dexterity which brought the project to life.
As Alessandro Mendini proclaims:
''These days we ‘don’t have time, and these thirteen works are just the kind of objects that take a great deal of it. That is why making them is meant as a demonstration. In the case in point, they speak about the beauty of works that are created, not to meet a specific goal, but as an end in themselves, and they demonstrate the existence of spaces that offer infinite possibilities in the areas that lie midway between art, craftsmanship and design, beyond their exclusive domains.''
The exhibition’s cultural ambition is thus to highlight the fundamental role played by the traditional artistic crafts within our society by including them in an ongoing, progressive dialogue with modern creative expression. In a world where all things that have been hand-made are becoming scarce and by all means even more valuable and awe-inspiring, the exhibition manages to make us question the beauty of standardized manufactured products by highlighting the value of craftsmanship along with the uniqueness of the hand-crafted object against today’s era of the machine-made. For it may be the designer’s inspiration, talent and vision that generate the form, but it is the craftsmen’s skill that materializes it, interpreting the contemporary world through their extraordinary dexterity.
After Geneva, Vacheron Constantin will send the exhibition on a tour to promote the importance of dialogue between the craft trades and design. Once the travelling phase is completed, the pieces will be auctioned, with the proceeds going to a charitable organisation.
Objects created by:
Zero. Bisazza, mosaic
One. Venini, blown glass
Two. Comitato per la Promozione del Merletto di Cantù, lace
Three. Superego Design, ceramic
Four. Slide, lacquered polyurethane
Five. Galleria Paolo Curti & Annamaria Gambuzzi, lacquered wood
Six. Giovanni Scacchi, methacrylate
Seven. Gori Lab, bronze
Eight. Fedeli Restauri, inlaid wood
Nine. Cleto Munari, gold-plated brass
Ten. Henry glass, sandblasted glass
Eleven. Carlo Poggio Design, resin and iron
Twelve. Riva 1920, natural woods