The Swatch Eye

La Biennale di Venezia

The Exhibition with a Thousand Faces

November 15, 2013
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This reflection on the power of imagination and boldness provided a particularly fitting setting to celebrate Swatch’s 30th birthday. Much perseverance was needed to stand by the risky approach of saving a conservative, dying watch industry with such an original project. However, this challenge was ably met by the members of the future Swatch development team. Convinced of the power of their vision, a few determined individuals managed to impose their utopian concept. This inclination towards innovation was immediately replicated in the special relationship that the brand quickly forged with the creative sector, especially the contemporary art world.


With verve and humour, Nick Hayek referred to this long-standing partnership at the official press conference of the 55th International Art Exhibition : “There has always been a mutual attraction between Swatch and artists. For them, it was a unique opportunity to show their works outside the usual museums and art galleries. They discovered that a watch could become a canvas worn on the wrist.”

By inviting numerous artists to decorate its models, Swatch has indisputably played a role in sharpening people’s sensitivity to art. Swatch defied social and geographical barriers, and made it possible for anyone to proudly display their artistic side.


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In some cases, it helped to awaken an underlying passion for art in budding contemporary art aficionados. Massimiliano Gioni readily admits to being one of them : “Like many people of my generation — I was born in 1973 — I grew up in a visual environment which was shaped by Swatch to a large extent. The first time I saw the model designed by Keith Haring, it had just as big an impact on me as my first Andy Warhol exhibition. Swatch understood that art can be anywhere, and that was a message that many artists at that time were sharing.” Thirty years later, Swatch is just as attuned to the messages of contemporary art. The different elements used in Swatch_Faces were proof of this. The aim was to celebrate these 30 years of creativity, innovation, provocation and, above all, unwavering support for the art world.


In the middle of the Giardini, a wall was filled with the portraits and works of artists in residence at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. This installation created a link between Venice and China which, thanks to an extensive programme of parallel events, was om nipresent at this edition of the Biennale. This reference to the Swatch Art Peace Hotel also evoked the spirit of openness which is at the heart of this artistic residence project. As Carlo Giordanetti, Creative Director at Swatch, emphasised : “It’s about preserving the spirit of this unique historic place, while providing an exceptional environment and conditions for creation. Everything is done to ensure that artists from all backgrounds can express themselves under ideal conditions.” 

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