Swatch has been supporting artists for years with the creation of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai and with the consolidated partnership, six consecutive editions, with Biennale Arte. Operations not of pure sponsorship but of “exchange”, entering the projects themselves and creating artistic contents capable of returning a very personal and colorful point of view on visual languages and contemporary creativity, which in turn create content on the product. With Carlo Giordanetti we talked about art, business, artists, the Biennale, Venice.
One of the most important art collections in the world, that of the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, and in particular five masterpieces by Frida Kahlo, Amedeo Modigliani, Robert Delaunay, Vassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian are the protagonists of the new beautiful series of Swatch watches. Not a merchandising operation or even a faithful reproduction, but a pure creative act, which tells the very important relationship of the Swiss company with art and, above all, with artists. In fact, Swatch has been supporting artists for years with the creation of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai and with the consolidated partnership, six consecutive editions, with Biennale Arte, operations not of pure sponsorship but of “exchange”, entering the projects themselves and creating artistic contents capable of restoring a very personal and colorful point of view on visual languages and contemporary creativity, which in turn create content on the product. The undisputed protagonist of this creative vision and this philosophy of the project linked to art, which has become a fundamental pillar of the brand, is Carlo Giordanetti, Member of Swatch Management and CEO of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. Swatch’s presence at the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is composite and fully conveys this vision: at the Giardini, The Description of the World is a site-specific installation designed by Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul; at the Arsenale, in the Sale d’Armi, Swatch Faces presents the works of five artists who have been in residence at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. As has now been tradition for some editions, Swatch will also present a Swatch Art Special edition, as well as a watch models inspired by the graphic identity of the Biennale Arte 2022. We met Carlo Giordanetti to talk about art, business, artists, the Biennale, Venice.
The path undertaken with Biennale is part of our corporate social responsibility projects: not just sponsorship, with relative economic investment and consequent commercial return, but participation with original projects and contents
How did Navin Rawanchaikul’s choice for the Swatch project of this highly anticipated Biennale Arte come about? What story does the installation tell?
It was really love at first sight. In 2021 we developed a partnership with the MAXXI of Rome on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. The health emergency made it impossible to physically go to Shanghai, so we decided to bring the Swatch Art Peace Hotel “outside the walls” to some iconic venues of modern and contemporary art and to some temporary international events: at the MAXXI in Rome, at Locarno Film Festival, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Expo 2020 in Dubai. When we went to inaugurate the exhibition at MAXXI, in the entrance lobby there was a huge mural with the colourful greeting “Hello from Rome” by Navin Rawanchaikul. I was immediately struck by this work because it was aesthetically in perfect Swatch style: cheerful, very powerful. However I was equally attracted, observing the work more carefully, by the peculiar background of which it was an expression and which eloquently returned. I then immediately contacted Navin, who liked the proposal very much, immediately welcoming it with great enthusiasm. The artist had already been to the Biennale in 2011 with Naviland, a project for the Thailand Pavilion. Navin immediately began to develop the new project and, in decisive contrast to the blockade due to Covid, he left Chiang Mai in Thailand to settle in Venice. After the ten-day quarantine period, he first began to meet many members of foreign communities who had arrived in the city over the years and settled here: Nepalese, Chinese, even wealthy Thai ladies. At that point two aspects were decisive: first, thanks to the assistant who was supported by him, Navin “discovered” the Venetians and some of their associations, see, for example, Laguna nel Bicchiere; second, in the first ten days of his stay in Venice, the artist read Marco Polo’s The Million, a book that later became the main theme of the project itself. Navin has in fact placed his research in constant dialogue with the stories told by the legendary Venetian explorer, so much so that he entitled the installation The description of the world, taking up the original French title of The Million, Le Divisament du Monde. The work will be accompanied to the Giardini by a letter from the artist himself to Marco Polo, a letter in which Navin recounts his journey in reverse, from the East to Venice, expressing his personal vision of what this city has become today. His artistic research places the human figure at the centre: the protagonists of this new work are, therefore, Christopher Columbus, the Monument to Garibaldi, Marco Polo himself, but also all the people Navin interviewed, from the guys who work in the restaurants of the city to those who have chosen the city as their place of residence or vacation. It is a very pop, colourful and considerable size map of Venice. In fact, we are always enthusiastic by always letting ourselves be carried away; so what initially was supposed to be a single wall in which to unravel this evolving “human map” has finally become a work composed of 44 elements distributed over 9 layers! Within this structure, many small speakers reproduce Navin’s letter to Marco Polo, read in different languages: from Thai to Hindu (the artist is in fact of Indian origins), to French, to English, to Italian. A story in images and words of great emotional impact and equally suggestive. We were so enthusiastic that we did not find the time necessary to make the clock dedicated to the work, which we will present here in September.
You have maintained a strong bond with the Biennale for many years, especially on the occasion of art exhibitions. How have the modalities of this important sponsorship evolved over time, which we can define as a real artistic partnership?
Over the years we have managed to create a solid reputation as a company that works with artists in the name of a religious respect for their freedom of expression. I believe that it is precisely this coherent and tenacious disposition of ours that has made it possible to build a relationship based on mutual trust with this extraordinary cultural institution, which has meant that between us we went beyond the mere logic of sponsorship by building a real partnership. The path undertaken with Biennale is part of our corporate social responsibility projects: not just sponsorship, with relative economic investment and consequent commercial return, but participation with original projects and contents. The enormous value of this collaboration is in fact to offer an angle of view on the brand that does not pass from the actual product.
The second part of the Biennale 2022 project, Swatch Faces, is an exhibition that becomes a real pavilion at the Arsenale. Which artists are involved and which are their projects for this edition?
In Arsenale since 2015 we present a selection of artists from the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. The first year we were in one of the tents of the North Arsenal, a beautiful space but out of proportion and peripheral to the main exhibition path. Now we ‘occupy’ a space inside the Arms Rooms, more central in the path and with a reasonable size. In this edition the space will be animated by the works of five artists, an original mosaic of different artistic expressions. The first artist, the Chinese Tang Shu, is a painter in the most classical sense of the term: he paints with oil colors. During 2020/21 he created a work on isolation: an aesthetically very beautiful triptych that depicts, from a bird’s eye perspective, a beach where people are distant but at the same time together. The second artist involved, also from China, Landi, perfectly reflects the Swatch style with a very attractive and colorful work. Also from China comes another artist, Xue Fei, perfectly in line with the theme of the 2022 Biennale: her work leads back to surrealism, her little characters are reminiscent of those of Bosch. It is a very unique work: three paintings that are the evolution of the same situation over time. The fourth artist is the Korean Shin Hoyoon: his challenge is to give transparency to the material without using transparent material. In this case he presents three works, two representations of the Buddha and a Yoga posture of reflection, worked with very thin sheets of paper held together by transparent resin points. Fifth and last artist selected, Marcelot, a Brazilian living in Zurich, from whom we commissioned a work. He is a sculptor who creates steel and ceramic structures, which he then covers with paper, using a whole series of different techniques. Among his works there are some busts of famous people such as Angela Merkel, Bolsonaro, Napoleon. We decided to bring the latter on display, so as to place the Corsican emperor in contrast with a Lion of San Marco ‘sculpted’ using dozens of copies of the Gazzettino and Nuova Venezia, while for Napoleon the artist preferred copies by Le Monde. The mane, the wings and the book are instead made with Venetian fabrics selected from the Rubelli collection. Therefore, our presence at the Arsenale is also characterized by restoring an important link with Venice.
Taking up the fascinating theme, which later became the title of the exhibition, that Cecilia Alemani wanted to put at the center of this Biennale, we ask you what your Dream Milk is.
Living one in another dimension, so to speak “alternative”: a life as an artist, that’s it, but certainly not because I lead a life as an artist…