The vocabulary of watchmaking uses poetic and evocative language to express the plethora of ways employed through the centuries to display the time – how about wandering hours, mysterious time, digital time, hands in the air or singing hours? Telling Time juxtaposes historic pieces and works by contemporary artists and designers, which all share the same desire to tell the time. The more recent creations often build upon and adapt the inventiveness of watchmakers of yesteryear. Artists and designers frequently depart from the classic way of telling the time, coming up with often witty variations. All these pieces mark the passing of the hours, and in doing so remind us of time’s inexorable onward march.
Although the tools we use continue to evolve, knowing what time it is and being able to measure its passage remain fundamental concerns; most people continue to carry something with them to help them tell the time. The exhibition underlines watchmaking’s enduring vitality after more than five hundred years, and demonstrates its extraordinary capacity to innovate and reinvent itself to meet the needs of its particular era, from the invention of hands to the biometric sensors of the latest smartwatches.
A dialogue with contemporary art and design
Their features help us to draw parallels with contemporary designers and plastic artists whose works explore ways of prolonging, diverting or testing the display of time and the passage of time. Gianni Motti counts down the seconds to the time when the sun is expected to explode, in 5 billion years (Big Crunch Clock). Maartens Baas offers a video in which the time is displayed by people sweeping up rubbish, in real time (Sweepers Clock). John M Armleder reinterprets the idea of a memento mori in a contemporary watch (ART-DNA, Romain Jérôme). Iván Argote counts off the hours and minutes in dollars or euro (Time is Money). Siren Elise Wilhelmsen measures the passage of time by the progress on the scarf knitted by her wall clock (365 Knitting Clock). Marti Guixé’s timepiece reminds us when it is time to eat by emitting food smells at the appropriate moment (Time to eat). Time is brought bang up to date, exploring the opportunities offered by ingenuity, wit, intelligent imitation and poetry.
Collaborations and partnerships
Telling Time brings together a considerable corpus of more than 150 objects from all over Europe. The historical pieces are from both private collections and major public repositories, as well as heritage collections from manufactures.
The scenography is a result of a partnership with the ECAL/Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, and is the work of Iris Andreadis, Anna Heck, Pauline Lemberger and Jérôme Rütsche, all students on the Exhibition Design course led by industrial designer Adrien Rovero.
A book to accompany the exhibition has been produced jointly by the mudac and 5 Continents Editions (Milan). It includes all the works in the exhibition along with essays by the exhibition curators and experts in a variety of disciplines.
Institutions: Musée international d’horlogerie de La Chaux–de-Fonds, Musée d’horlogerie du Locle – Château des Monts, Musée de l’horlogerie Beyer Zurich, Fondation Edouard et Maurice Sandoz,
Ville de Genève, Musée du Louvre, Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris,
CNAP – Centre national des arts plastiques de Paris, FRAC Champagne-Ardennes, Collection Province de Hainaut/Grand-Hornu, Triennale Design Museum de Milan
Watchmaking patrimonial collections: Patrimoine Vacheron Constantin, Geneva; Manufacture Cartier, la Chaux-de-fonds; Collection Cartier, Geneva; Collection Privée Piaget, Geneva; Patrimoine Audemars Piguet, Le Brassus; Patrimoine Jaeger Lecoultre, Le Sentier; Compagnie des Montres Longines Francillon SA, Saint-Imier; IWC Museum, Schaffouse; Musée Girard-Perregaux, La Chaux-de-Fonds
Watchmaking brands: Bell & Ross, Hermès, Hublot, MB&F, Meta Watch, Dallas & Espoo, Officine Panerai, Parmigiani Fleurier, Pierre Junod, Benoît Mintiens for Ressence, John Armleder for RJ-Romain Jerome, Félix Baumgartner & Martin Frei for URWERK, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Hannes Wettstein for Ventura, Kari Voutilainen
Artists and designers: Joëlle Aeschlimann & Mathieu Rivier & Pauline Saglio/ECAL, Darren Almond, Francis Alÿs, Iván Argote, Thorunn Arnadottir, François Azambourg, Maarten Baas, Bina Baitel, Lenora de Barros, Yves Béhar/Fuseproject for Issey Miyake, Benoît Billotte, Klaus Botta, breadedEscalope, Natalia Brilli, Dongjin Byeon, Valentin Carron, Pierre Charrié, Martino d’Esposito & Alexandre Gaillard/Swiss Koo, Jean-François d’Or, Ruth Ewan, Mark Formanek, Adrienne Garbini, Wendy Gaze & Arnaud Imobersteg/HEAD-Genève, Constance Guisset, Martí Guixé, Humans Since 1982, Crispin Jones, Solkin Keizer/ HEAD-Genève, Fiona Krüger/ECAL, Shiro Kuramata, Alicja Kwade, Seraina Lareida/ECAL, Mathieu Lehanneur, Nicolas Le Moigne, Jorge Macchi, Alexandra Martini, Eric Morzier/SIGMASIX, Gianni Motti, Mathilde Petit & Roland Kawczynski-Pillonel/HEAD-Genève, Jordi Pla/ECAL, Bertrand Planes, Poetic Lab, Christiaan Postma, Qubus Design Studio, Raqs Media Collective, Pauline Saglio/ECAL, Michael Sans, Nazar Sigaher/Meyer Group, Philip Starck pour Fossil, Maxim Velcovsky, Dominic Wilcox, Siren Elise Wilhelmsen, Jeremy & Adrian Wright for Lexon, Sebastian Wrong, Tokujin Yoshioka for Seiko, Tristan Zimmermann
Galleries and design editors: Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Established&Sons, Frith Street Gallery, Peter Kilchmann, kamel mennour, Galeria Millan, Galerie Perrotin, Galerie Xippas
Private collections: Aaron R., Arnaud Tellier, A l’Emeraude