Nam June Paik was a pioneering American artist who worked in a variety of media and is considered to be the first video artist. Born in Seoul, Paik was at university when he met the composer John Cage and the artist Joseph Beuys, who inspired him to begin work in conceptual art. Paik is known for making robot-like video-sculptures out of wire, metal, and parts from radio and television sets and for his collaborations on many provocative, tongue-in-cheek performances and videos. A major retrospective of Paik’s work was held in 2000 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Zapping (SLZ104) bristles with energy, buzzes with electricity, transpires, happens, zaps. With his television-colours and information-spangled design, the endlessly original Nam June Paik seems to be flipping through the channels along the length of the watch. He juxtaposes magnetically charged images, compressed bits of information zipping through the ether on waves of broadcast TV shows or Internet superhighways. Rendered with a jewel-clear chartreuse plastic case, a flexible strap as glossy as a magazine and an intense blue dial with a scrawled white design. Zapping is a clever, information-age timepiece, infused with the Zeitgeist of the 90s.
Constantin Boym is a noted Russian architect and designer. After graduating from the Moscow Architectural Institute, he went on to take a Master’s degree in Design from Domus Academy in Milan. Boym is the founder of the Boym Design Studio in New York City, whose projects range from tableware for Italian designer brands to installations for art and design exhibitions at many American museums, including no less eminent clients than the National Design Museum in New York.
Lens Heaven (GK214) has a secret that it may or may not reveal. A matt, chrome-coloured strap is stubbled with lens-like bubbles, which upon closer inspection yield scenes of intense colour and hushed elegance reminiscent of hand-painted miniatures. The watch glass is fitted with six magnifying lenses that draw the eye to colourful, everyday objects on the dial. Bright, sleek and subtle by turns, the work’s light body and barely-there feeling capture a signature characteristic of Swatch. Boym’s understated, impeccable style gives this piece both a light-hearted air and quiet dignity and presence.
Yue Minjun is a contemporary artist from Beijing. An exponent of so-called “cynical realism”, his instantly recognizable large-scale oil paintings often feature himself in different settings, frozen in laughter. The signature laughing figures also appear in his sculptures, watercolours and prints. One of the most popular of Chinese artists, Yue’s work has been featured at prestigious venues in Beijing, Bern, Venice, Shanghai and Vancouver, where a characteristic group of giant bronzes, “A-maze-ing Laughter”, was installed in a park.
Yue Minjun has roped and harnessed the age-old power of the icon. In his paintings and sculptures, as in Wild Laugh (GJ117), his work for Swatch, Yue seizes attention with arresting images of frozen, mask-like laughter. The dial displays four of the artist’s trademark laughing, disembodied faces at hours 3, 6, 9 and 12. The blue plastic strap of this clever piece is spangled with red stars, and the dial’s hour and minute hands take up the flag-blue from the strap. Dripping with irony, this caustic work presents and criticizes a perceived uniformity and lack of originality, itself walking the taut tightrope between the two with gravity-defying poise.
Arroyo is a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, set designer, and potter whose work manipulates ready-made images, words, and elements taken from commercial art, graphic design, and the works of other painters. His pieces are often titled with reference to the legacy of European wars and to contemporary political situations, and as such he frequently provokes controversy, while his admirers see him as an ideological and creatively uncompromising artist. In his stage design work, Arroyo has created sets for the Piccolo Teatro in Milan and the Paris Opéra.
Boxing (GN163), Arroyo’s piece for the Swatch&Art Collection, is an invitation to step into the ring for a 15-rounder with a heavy-handed cartoon kangaroo. This amusing character punches well above his weight – his fists are set like he’s ready to right-hook time into the future. Waving the colours of the Spanish flag, Arroyo’s creation is a frank, funny and creative expression featuring back-to-basics primary colours and a firetruck-red strap off set by a Superman-blue buckle and yellow loop. With its charming, children’s book image of a pugilist kangaroo whose boxing gloves indicate the time, this Swatch Art Special is a knockout !
Yoko Ono’s art for Swatch is at once mutely, understatedly elegant and delightfully provocative. Despite its aloof, greyscale beauty, on closer inspection it pictures a film-reel series of images of a derriere. Titled Film No. 4 (GB168), the watch recalls Ono’s highly original and fiercely uncompromising work, where her use of the body in black and white photography and film defined her revolutionary perspective. The dial’s white letters, unscrambled, spell the artist’s name. Rendered in silver, black and white with vellum-like transparency, the watch has a celluloid quality, a strip of film taken right off the projector of a Manhattan art gallery.
Annie Leibovitz created a watch for Swatch that bears her own name : Annie Leibovitz (GB178). In a vertical strip that descends from the buckle across the strap to the dial and continues on the six o’clock side are ten photographs of athletes in training prior to the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Read from top to bottom or from the ground up, they form a startling and wonderful black and white sequence and lasting tribute to sports.
Bridget Mutji, born in 1971, is an Aborigine and lives most of the time in the bush. Her watch Wanayarra Tjukurrpa’ (GJ116) shows, amongst other things, the iridescent earth snake of the Aborigine Dreaming concept sliding into a sacred waterhole. The earthy point and line motifs come from the sand pictures that were drawn on the ground by the original inhabitants of Australia. This ancient art adrons the wrists of thousands of people all over the world.
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré is an Ivorian artist born in 1923. The 11th of March 1948 was like a second birth : he had a solar vision that told him he should preserve and expound the African heritage. His Swatch Cheick Nadro (GG140) is named after the vision. The artist combines African pictoral language with symbols from our mass communications society. In order to build bridges between the cultures he has also created a kind of “phonetic alphabet”.
Jim Avignon is from Berlin, Germany. Which effectively means experiencing the ultimate in techno music, and long nights in clubs, cellars and bars. Here, the art world meets club culture – head-on. E(ntertaining)-Art is the generic name the artist gives to his work, which is not intended for posterity. Take his painted surfboards, for example. His prices at exhibitions are so reasonable that virtually anyone can afford to own one of his multicoloured works. Techno is a mass product and so is pop. And jam-packed pop concerts are all part of Jim Avignon’s exhibition concept. The upshot of all this for Swatch ? A colourful and humorous little design known as Pop Bones (GK230).
Victor Vasarely, a Hungarian by birth, was the co-founder of Op-art. In the 1930s, he created a series of black-and-white tableaux in which he assembled contrasts and geometrical patterns in fi gurative forms and expressed movement through wavy lines of varying widths, all designed to confuse our sense of perception. Since the 1960s, Vasarely has propagated the Idea of the multiple work of art, which takes shape as a result of precisely calculated design formula. Keret (GK231) is a vivid representation of the artist’s philosophy.
Studio Azzurro is the name of an internationally renowned group from Milan that specializes in video productions and experimental video art. It was formed in 1982, when three young artists teamed up to give each other the mutual benefit of their combined talents : photographer Fabio Cirifino, Paolo Rosa (visual art and cinema) and Leonardo Sanglorgi (graphic design and animation). Their work with video – a medium that offers enormous flexibility – has taken them into various other disciplines, such as cinema, theatre, television and music. The studio staged the world’s first video opera, video musicals and theatre. Installations exhibited all over the world, theoretical expositions, workshops and seminars testify to the broad diversity of their work – as, indeed, does their watch specially created for Swatch. Tempo Naturale (GK232).
Micha Klein, from the Netherlands, started working with computer graphics in the mid 1980s. His psychedelic video work flickered across screens at the first warehouse raves held in Utrecht, at international club scene events, and at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Klein is fascinated by the computer as a tool which enables him to demonstrate synergies between the various media and to maintain control over his own work. He hopes that his own images will be seen as part of contemporary culture, with sufficient originality to stand out against the visual overload imposed upon us by the mass media. Love, Peace & Happiness (GJ118), he says, “are the elements we’ll need if we are to live together on this planet for an-other 1,000 years.”
Irit Batsry born in Tel Aviv in 1957 to Iraqui parents. After completing a number of ceramic sculptures, she studied in Jerusalem, where she specialized in video art. She resumed her experimental work with effects and images in the USA and Europe, and has retained control of all the components that have a bearing on the expressive quality of her video productions. As a result, sound, special effects, photography – and director’s instructions – form a composite whole. The name of her creation for Swatch is Hands (GN166).