The Verhoeven Twins next to their installation, "Moments of Happiness", in Venice. Image courtesy Piaget.

Piaget’s Chief Executive on the Swiss Watchmaker’s History of Collaborating with Artists, From Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali


While contemporary art, in all its iterations, was the star of the show at the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, a group exhibition titled “DYSFUNCTIONAL” that’s dedicated to design—or rather “design-art”—got a fair amount of attention this year.

That’s in part thanks to Dutch design duo, The Verhoeven Twins (of the London-based design studio, Carpenters Workshop Gallery) who produced an enchanting installation suspended from the third-floor ceiling of the Ca d’Oro palace, a gothic palazzo located on Venice’s Grand Canal, where the exhibition was held. Crafted from industrial glass, the project, which consists of clusters of interconnected orbs meant to resemble soap bubbles, is collectively titled Moments of Happiness, in part a tribute to their ability to bring a sense of whimsy to the otherwise stately space.  

Piaget, the Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweller, owned by the Richemont group, were the ones to commission the work. They gave the artists “carte blanche” when conceiving the idea, and lent them the services of their gold-smithing ateliers, whose artisans treated each “bubble” work with a 24-carat, yellow-gold fixture used to attach it to the ceiling. Glimmering as the light moved across their surfaces, the fixtures reflected the colors of the Venetian landscape just outside.

Against the setting sun that dropped down the sides of the iridescent surfaces of Moments of Happiness, Piaget’s chief executive, Chabi Nouri, spoke to artnet News about the project, and how artist collaborations and art initiatives have long expanded Piaget’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 [technical] 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 [craftsmanship] on an equal footing, a position that really resonated with us.  That is precisely what we do at Piaget, with the fusion of [our workmanship] and creativity, which is what you see in our handcrafted gold or our work with [precious] 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. [In many ways], Moments of Happiness is 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. 

The Verhoeven Twins next to their installation, “Moments of Happiness”, in Venice. Image courtesy Piaget.

Is Piaget becoming an art patron?

Houses like ours are defined as “luxury” because our products are 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 [techniques], and [transcending] 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. 

The Verhoeven Twins' "Moments of Happiness". Image courtesy Piaget.

The Verhoeven Twins’ “Moments of Happiness”. Image courtesy Piaget.

Why did Piaget feel it was important to become involved with the Venice Biennale?

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.  

Are there any future art projects or artist collaborations coming up that you’re able to share or speak to?

I cannot speak of other artists now. In the course of this year, we will unveil additional pieces we have commissioned with the same artists with different gold elements, which will be shown around the world. The Verhoeven 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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