The thrilling love story of Swatch and art returns to Venice, as the Swiss watchmaker resumes its role as main partner of the 57th International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia. A variety of installations at both the Arsenale and Giardini venues take up the Swatch Faces 2017 theme: resident artists from the Swatch Art Peace Hotel Shanghai present their work, and color is celebrated in the spectacular work of British abstract artist Ian Davenport.
Since opening last November 2011, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel residency has hosted more than 240 artists from around the world in the landmark hotel on the Bund in Shanghai. Swatch Faces 2017 encourages cross-cultural exchange through contemporary art. Swatch has invited four international artists from its unique artist residency to bring their art to the historic Arsenale shipyards at the world’s most prestigious contemporary art exhibition.
In her time as a resident, French photographer Virginie Litzler was entranced by the mysterious visual poetry of light and shadow in Shanghai streets. Poetry infuses the work of China’s Yuan Jinhua as well—in a series of eight moody ink-wash paintings, he gives voice to profound and changing emotions. Shanghai’s postmodern skyscrapers catch the eye of Belgian architect and artist Cedric Van Parys—especially the curious and striking monuments built atop them.
A very different response to the city comes from South African Rodan Kane Hart, intrigued by present-day remains of Shanghai’s colonial past: 40 mirror-polished steel masks represent the symbolic death of western concepts of art.
Pavilion at Giardini
The Swatch Pavilion in the Giardini area presents a spectacular, site-specific installation by Davenport, the British artist renowned for his vibrant abstract paintings. Entitled “Giardini Colourfall,” this massive work was executed through carefully dripped vertical lines of paint. The colors were inspired by the chromatic palette of historical masterpieces from Klimt, Monet and Perugino. They are presented in a specific color sequence that structures the work, giving balance and symmetry across the varying chromatic bands in a visual mirroring effect. Swatch creative director Carlo Giordanetti commented, “Ian Davenport’s work is fascinating—the colors, his ability to tell stories by the amazing juxtaposition of energetic vibes, the way he manages space and lets materials come alive and create a language of their own.”
Swatch and Davenport have also created a Swatch Art special, Wide Acres of Time, a limited and numbered edition of 1,966 pieces featuring the artist’s eye-catching color play on the watch face.