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The Inspiration behind La Prairie’s New Store Design

2 Jun 2017

Swiss Contemporary Architecture is much admired for both its innovation and sophisticated elegance. The founding in 1928 of the International Congresses of Modern Architecture in Switzerland, along with the groundbreaking work of Swiss-born modern architects, such as Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, introduced Swiss Contemporary architecture to the world. At the forefront of the modern architecture movement, it embodies the purity, precision and aesthetic harmony inherent to Switzerland. 

Since the 1990s, the minimalist buildings of Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have been consistently creating a sensation on the international architecture scene. One of their most celebrated projects involved converting the Bankside Power Station in London into the new home of the Tate Modern, one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.

Another artistic movement inspired by the dramatic landscapes found in Switzerland, the school of Land Art is a conceptual approach from the 1960s rooted in nature — one in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked. To wit, this month, the city of Grindelwald, Switzerland will host the LandArt Festival, during which 11 international teams will create sculptures and other works in the surrounding natural environment, using only natural and locally sourced materials.

In designing its new store concept, La Prairie took inspiration from both the sleek Swiss Contemporary Architecture for its store design and the organic Land Art for its Visual Merchandising. Further celebrating the intrinsic link to artistic movements, the store is adorned with commissioned modern sculptures representing each of the key skincare collections. The entire space echoes contemporary aesthetic movements through a pristine elegance pays homage to the beauty and timelessness of the birthplace of La Prairie.

Architecture, Herzog & de Meuron, Land Art, Contemporary Art

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An Audacious Year at Art Basel

19 Jun 2017

In 1970, three passionate and determined Basel gallerists — Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt — staged an international art exhibition. It was an immediate sensation, bringing together exceptional artwork from around the world to Switzerland. In that inaugural show, more than 16,000 enthusiasts attended to see art from 90 galleries and 30 publishers representing 10 countries.

Art Basel is now one of the world's major art shows for modern and contemporary works, with unique shows also hosted in Miami Beach and Hong Kong.

Basel continues to be the premier contemporary art fair, and last week nearly 300 of the world's leading galleries descended on the Swiss cultural capital to showcase paintings, drawings, sculpture, installations, prints, photography, video and digital art by more than 4,000 artists. The galleries represented 35 countries and six continents.

This year, amidst the talks, performances and soirées, visitors were drawn to the beating heart of the fair — the galleries that took over the Messeplatz and offered an array of raw and beautiful pieces, some of which boldly reflected the world’s current cultural and political climate.

There was a palpable frisson of excitement as art connoisseurs and buyers from around the world viewed work by such legends as Picasso, Miró and Schiele, along with awe-inspiring contemporary artists at the pinnacle of their careers. These included Swiss artist Urs Fischer who reinvented Rodin’s The Kiss with oil-based modelling clay and invited visitors to interact with it. They eagerly pulled off pieces and inscribed their names with it across on the walls.

Emerging artists were also celebrated. The Baloise Art Prize, which is awarded annually to two young artists, went to America’s Sam Pulitzer and Martha Atienza from the Philippines. Mr. Pulitzer exhibited a series of transparent corridors mounted with playful drawings in coloured pencil inspired by advertising, clip art and popular culture. Ms. Atienza’s video installation featured a parade of characters from one of the Philippines’ oldest festivals, which she shot walking across a seabed as a critical and humorous take not only on the state of society in her home country, but also on the threat of climate change.

Perhaps the most spellbinding exhibits were the enormous installations in the “Unlimited” section, such as Subodh Gupta’s Cooking the World, which featured a shelter made from cooking utensils suspended from the ceiling on fishing lines. Inside, the artist cooked Indian food for those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for the live performance. The sharing of food served as a gesture of inclusion and acceptance.

Sue Williamson’s large-scale installation featuring bottles each hand-engraved with information about a different slave from the 16th to the 19th century added to the mesmerising spectacle.

Camilla Brown, 63, from Lausanne, who has been attending the fair for the past 28 years, said: “Every year Art Basel gets better and better, and this year is absolutely astonishing. There’s super strong energy. Everyone can feel it.

In her mind, this was Art Basel’s strongest year.

All these fantastic pieces give you so many emotions,” said Ms. Brown. “The visitors are amazing too. It’s quite a show to sit and watch them – they’re a performance in themselves. I’ve been here for three days and you get a bit drunk on all the emotions you feel from everything you see.

And galleries were not the only ones showcasing electric works of art this year.

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, La Prairie — whose innovative spirit and passion for audacity mirrors the world of contemporary art — partnered with Art Basel to invite guests inside its rarefied world of timeless beauty.

Part of the fair’s VIP Lounge was transformed into a transcendental La Prairie universe, where guests enjoyed customised treatments next to an audacious installation by Paul Coudamy, who was commissioned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of  the brand’s iconic Skin Caviar.

For his steel sculpture, entitled Living Cells, the French architect and artist uses volume to masterfully interpret La Prairie’s latest groundbreaking innovation, Skin Caviar Absolute Filler.

Inspired by the Weaire-Phelan structure, a mathematical formula of a complex three-dimensional form representing foam bubbles of equal size, Living Cells is comprised of lustrous black, magnetised marbles — reminiscent of caviar, another nod to its muse. The installation’s captivating form and spiral structure seemed to be in constant flux, transcending its surroundings and striking awe amongst viewers.

The installation echoed the culmination of the worlds of art and science seen throughout Art Basel this year.

Art Basel, art, skincare, Basel, Paul Coudamy, Living Cells, Skin Caviar Absolute Filler

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La Prairie Invites: Audemars Piguet

For its first edition of La Prairie Invites, the premier luxury skincare brand talks to Audemars Piguet about the beauty of timelessness.
6 Sep 2017

Just like La Prairie, Audemars Piguet has been inextricably linked to art from its very beginnings. With a shared vision for audacity, unparalleled aesthetics and timelessness, both luxury Swiss brands have a partnership with Art Basel — the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair — which has shows in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami. 

Audemars Piguet, one of the world's most celebrated luxury watch manufacturers, has mastered the art of perfection with rule-breaking innovation.

In 1972 — 97 years after its birth — the Swiss brand dared to do the unthinkable. As part of an eternal quest to combine artistic excellence and technical expertise, Audemars Piguet launched a watch that rocked the tranquil waters of horology. It transcended the inelegant confines of the average sports watch to produce a masterpiece of opulence and engineering. 

The Royal Oak was both sporty and infinitely beautiful. Treated with the reverence of gold, its steel case had an astonishing lustre. The bezel was a groundbreaking octagonal shape and the dial’s tapisserie pattern captivated with its ability to reflect light. With its audacious design and breathtaking craftsmanship, the Royal Oak entered the elite club of timeless classics.

 Based in the Vallée de Joux, known as the cradle of fine watchmaking, the brand continues to be revered for its innovation and sophistication. It still inspires the Royal Oak’s devoted followers with regular updates and produces a limited 40,000 watches per year to ensure exclusivity across all its collections.

“I believe that luxury products have almost become a philosophical refuge from the pace of today’s world,” asserted Chadi Gruber, Audemars Piguet’s head of product development. “Luxury means taking your time in a world where everything is too fast. We are proposing a slow perfection.” 

Luxuries not only make time appear to stand still — they can also produce a poetic resonance. 

“The creativity of our designs and movements, and the painstaking precision and rarity of our materials, provide an escape from pure vital needs,” stated Chadi.

“We create objects that allow you to travel internally, like art does. We’re here to create emotions and make people travel outside the purely material and technological world.  You can see the artist’s soul in its work and for me it’s the same thing for our watches. They include a part of the artisan’s soul. I often make the analogy between our watches and art because, for me, a watch is a painting that you wear on your wrist.”

The birthplace of the brand, Switzerland has become synonymous with luxury, elegance and precision because of its centuries-old culture of embracing seriousness, refusing to compromise on quality and valuing hard work, Chadi stated.

The industrious character of the Swiss, along with the harsh weather, helped them to become world leaders in horology, as farmers with a penchant for precision turned to watchmaking during the long winters. 

Today, Audemars Piguet continues to create timeless elegance by never forgetting its rich past and having a vision for the future.

How does it manage to keep ahead of time?

“I would say we’re perfectly on time. We just know it before others,” declared Chadi.

Audemars Piguet, Time, Luxury, Swiss Watches, Art Basel, Royal Oak

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Art Basel and La Prairie: an Inspired Partnership

22 Mar 2017

Art Basel, the renowned art exhibition held in Basel, Switzerland, is the world's premier art show for modern and contemporary works. The organisation also holds shows in Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique – a uniqueness reflected in its participating galleries, the artworks presented, as well as the content of parallel programming produced in collaboration with local institutional partners.

La Prairie will partner with Art Basel in a first-of-its-kind partnership from June 12-19, 2017. As part of this exciting initiative, La Prairie will be present in Art Basel’s VIP Lounge throughout the duration of the fair, where visitors will have the opportunity to experience the La Prairie universe and enjoy customised La Prairie treatments.

Using rare, precious ingredients, La Prairie continues to break the codes of luxury skincare. Founded on the belief that the scientist’s creative process is akin to that of the artist, every La Prairie formulation begins with an audacious vision.

“We are very excited about the partnership between La Prairie and Art Basel, which we feel perfectly represents our quest for timeless beauty and our passion for audacity,” said Patrick Rasquinet, President and CEO of La Prairie Group. “Indeed, from the painstaking research behind our scientific breakthroughs to the opulent formulations that envelop the senses, from the jewel-like packaging to the high-touch service, art is not just what La Prairie is, it is what we do,” he added.

That innovative spirit is mirrored in the world of contemporary art. “Art Basel gathers influencers from the international artistic community who seek to push the envelope of what is possible, which is why we feel a partnership with La Prairie is reflective of Art Basel’s values,” said Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel.

In addition to establishing the partnership with Art Basel in 2017, La Prairie will also mark the 30th anniversary of its iconic Skin Caviar. To celebrate the occasion, La Prairie plans to collaborate on an artistic installation with a select group of contemporary artists. Check this space for updates. 

Keywords: Art, Art Basel, Artists, Audacious, Luxury, Innovation, Contemporary Art

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THE LEGACY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY BAUHAUS DESIGN MOVEMENT

Clean, minimal, elegant, audacious: Bauhaus changed the course of art and architecture in our world.
10 Apr 2018

Audacious by nature, revolutionary in its influence, the Bauhaus design movement altered the course of art and architecture in the western world.

Founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, through his Staatliches Bauhaus School of Design, Architecture and Applied Arts, the movement represented a dynamic new way of understanding the relationship between fine arts and industry.

At the school, known simply as ‘Bauhaus,’ creativity and manufacturing were brought together in order to imagine a new paradigm for creating art and objects. This approach was centred on a clean, functional and minimal aesthetic, resplendent in calming purity and unparalleled sleekness.

With the founding of Bauhaus, no longer would design be held in higher esteem than woodworking; no longer would architecture be seen as superior to painting. Instead, all disciplines would be equally exalted. It was through this convergence that Gropius elevated everyday objects to objects of design.

This fusion was achieved by combining two existing schools (the Weimar Academy of Arts and the Weimar School of Arts and Crafts) into a single entity. The movement reached its zenith in the latter half of the 1920s.

In this unique learning centre, students did not sit and listen to lectures. Instead, workshops known as ‘Werkstätten’ allowed the young talent to learn by doing – from pottery to typography, encouraging them to see the world through a new lens.

Move to Dessau

The progressive movement was not without its critics. In local elections in 1925, conservatives took power and put an end to the school’s funding. Gropius therefore took his ideas to Dessau, where the iconic Bauhaus building was commissioned. It was at this point that the school entered a radical new phase of creativity, innovation and influence.

The building itself was a feat of ingenuity unlike anything the world had seen. With symmetry rejected, one needed to circle the school in order to understand its three-dimensional character and each of its trio of components: a four-story workshop wing, a classroom wing and linking these two section, an administration block.

Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock

In this new facility, Gropius united celebrated artists and craftspeople. Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Monoly-Nagy and Oskar Schlemmer were all part of either the school’s faculty or student body – and sometimes both.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, another innovator in the world of contemporary design, succeeded Gropius as Director at the Bauhaus school from 1930 to 1933, when the school closed permanently.

Bauhaus studio house in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Shannon McPherron

Why the movement came to pass

In order to understand why Bauhaus was so startlingly different to the norms of its day – and why it continues to shape our visual world today – one must examine the social conditions in which it arose.

At the time it was conceived by Gropius, there was an emerging feeling that manufacturing had become soulless. Set apart from the inspiration and vision of fine arts and design, it had splintered into an industrial carousel of producing objects in a robotic fashion, completely lacking in passion and joy.

As such, the reunification of arts and crafts proved a welcome antidote, as well as acting as a counterpoint to the ubiquitous, elaborately ornate designs of the time.

Bauhaus building in Dessau, balcony of studio house, 1925/1926. Photographer: Lucia Moholy, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

While the school was open only a short time, its legacy continues to reverberate through the world of design. Indeed, La Prairie takes inspiration from Bauhaus, infusing its packaging with the clean, geometric aesthetic of the movement, visible in the minimalist lines of a Skin Caviar jar or the sleek silver of the La Prairie box. Most significantly, however, it is the Bauhaus dedication to excellence, its quest for innovation and its desire to dismantle norms that continue to inspire La Prairie today.

Architecture, Art, Bauhaus, Design, Dessau

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The Art of Travelling Well

13 Jul 2017

Travelling well involves much more than luxury destinations and five star amenities. It is an attitude — one that suggests a certain confidence that comes only from being a citizen of the world.

Arriving at a destination with an air of tranquil elegance, despite the usual pitfalls of international travel — delays, displaced luggage and fatigue — means seeking out the most innovative travel solutions to ensure a smooth, sophisticated journey.

To answer to the needs of the savvy traveller, luxury luggage brands are increasingly combining the high-end materials and precise craftsmanship clients expect with cutting-edge elements, such as integrated GPS tracking, USB chargers, remote auto-lock mechanisms and self-weighing technology, converting stylish suitcases into multi-faceted travel accessories.

Eschewing the standard issue complimentary amenities found on long-haul flights, seasoned travellers look to luxury brands to find lightweight, easy-to-pack essentials to help make long-haul flights more comfortable. Travel sets that include an elegant cashmere wrap, soft organic cotton slippers, silk eye masks and noise-cancelling headphones can go a long way to making any flight a restorative experience.

Travelling well also means taking advantage of the journey to rejuvenate, replenish and refresh the skin. Innovative formulas that combine several targeted actions in a single product mean fewer items in the vanity case. Clever locking mechanisms on dispensers ensure products arrive at their destination without spilling. Climate-activated moisturisers and deeply nourishing masks keep the dehydrating effects of pressurised cabins at bay, while delicately scented formulations and rich textures combine ensure a moment of indulgence — even at 30,000 feet.

Travel in style, Luxury, Travel, Luxury destination, Luxury luggage, Light packing, Travel smart

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The Art of Caviar

14 Jul 2017

Caviar has long been a symbol of decadence. Glinting like black pearls, it belongs to a rarified world of luxury and indulgence. 

La Prairie turned to this precious ingredient for its unique restorative powers to launch its celebrated Skin Caviar Collection 30 years ago. It was an audacious move for the brand, which was the first to use the rare potency of caviar in skincare products.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the iconic Skin Caviar, La Prairie has collaborated with a group of equally audacious contemporary artists to produce an exhibition that masterfully evokes the world of caviar.

Paul Coudamy’s Living Cells, which was unveiled at Art Basel this year, is a geometric structure of lacquered steel and magnets, defined through the mathematical formula known as Weaire-Phelan. Shiny black magnetised marbles – reminiscent of caviar – colonise the structure in clusters. The volume of the piece is in constant flux as the marbles can be moved, creating new, unique forms.

Solid Frequencies, a second work by Mr Coudamy, takes its cue from the Kundt Tube, a scientific device that displays sound waves in an air-filled, transparent tube. It features a large black form pierced by a glass tube filled with small marbles, inspired by the beads of La Prairie’s Skin Caviar. When the piece is touched, the marbles move, generating three-dimensional shapes that flow back and forth through the tube following the hand’s movement.

Moving Pixel, an installation by Bonjour Lab, was inspired by the spectacular lifting effect of La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Liquid Lift. The golden beads form a silhouette frozen in time and space for a brief moment, resisting both time and gravity.

Cinq Fruits celebrates La Prairie’s eternal quest for indulgence and timeless beauty with photographs evoking the iconic Skin Caviar Luxe Cream and Luxe Cream Sheer while showcasing the brand’s artistic sensibilities.

And finally, an audiovisual installation by TremensS echoes the way La Prairie uses steam distillation to capture Caviar Water, which is used in Skin Caviar Essence-in-Lotion. The artwork is housed in a pitch-black room where a laser hits a vertical monolith. Four video-projectors cast abstract visuals that interact with the laser, while sound heightens the immersive experience. 

The five valiant art installations will travel to Paris, New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai where visitors will witness art and science coming together in an inspiring and daring union. 

Paul Coudamy, Bonjour Lab, Cinq Fruits, TremensS, Paris, Art, Exhibition, Art of Caviar, Contemporary Art

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The Spellbinding Allure of Cobalt Blue

How the discovery of mesmerising cobalt blue changed the art world forever.
17 Nov 2017

Beloved by artists throughout the ages, cobalt blue is the epitome of purity and brilliance, evoking both mystery and opulence.

Its elegance emanates from the sleek, minimalist jars of La Prairie’s celebrated Skin Caviar Collection, transporting the admirer to a sanctuary of timeless beauty.

The discovery of the precious colour was as groundbreaking as it was masterful, for it resulted in some of the most cherished artworks in existence. 

The sublime pigment was produced at the beginning of the 19th century as an alternative to ultramarine, the traditional and most desirable blue pigment at the time. Made from ground lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone which hailed from Afghanistan, ultramarine was both scarce and costly.

 Bathers at Asnieres 

“Artists were in a difficult position when it came to blue,” said Dr. Rosalind McKever, the Harry M. Weinrebe Curatorial Fellow at the National Gallery, London.

“They either had ultramarine, which was very beautiful but very expensive, or blues like smalt, which were more accessible but faded, or those like azurite that had a bit of a green tinge.”

A new blue was needed and French interior minister Jean-Antoine Chaptal commissioned the distinguished chemist Louis-Jacques Thénard to develop a synthetic substitute for ultramarine. Inspired by the arresting blue glazes of Sèvres porcelain made from salts containing cobalt, Thénard experimented with a mix of cobalt salts and alumina. 

The Skiff

The result was ravishing — a pure, brilliant blue which was not only extraordinarily stable, it also dried quickly and could be safely mixed with other colours. Despite the new pigment’s relatively high cost, artists quickly embraced it, revelling in the extraordinary freedom it suddenly afforded them.

“If you think of Renaissance art, you often associate bright blues with the Virgin Mary, who was of course painted in the most expensive colour,” asserted Dr. McKever. “Cobalt allowed artists to use blue in a freer way,” she added. 

This new-found exuberance had a monumental impact. “The invention of cobalt blue allowed the explosion of bright colour and creativity that we see in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings,” said Dr. McKever. Renoir, Monet, Morisot, Sisley and Cézanne favoured it in particular. 

There are numerous breathtaking examples of the use of cobalt blue in 19th-century paintings on display at the National Gallery, two of which captivate DR. McKever.

Lavacourt under Snow 

“One is Renoir’s The Skiff, which is a boating scene on the River Seine, just outside Paris,” she said. “Renoir used bright cobalt blue in the river against a bright orange boat, so that both those colours — based on contemporary colour theory — are far more brilliant for it.

“The other fantastic one is Monet’s Lavacourt under Snow. It’s a snow scene, so you may expect it to be white, but he used cobalt blue to make a wide range of shadows for the snow that give it a real icy feeling.”

The most legendary of colours, cobalt blue continues to be adored by the world’s most distinguished contemporary artists. “It’s a fantastic colour,” summed up Dr. McKever.

Cobalt Blue, Monet, Impressionists, Cézanne, La Prairie, Renoir, National Gallery

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Going Beyond The Ordinary

With Exceptional Attention To Detail, La Prairie Offers An Exquisite Design To Deliver Complexion Perfection.
28 May 2018

“The aura given out by a person is as much a part of them as their skin,” proclaimed renowned 20th-century portraitist Lucien Freud when discussing his artistic aspiration to capture the complexion of his subjects. A perfect, glowing complexion is, after all, the incarnation of timeless beauty, the picture of health, the very essence of youth. But the portrait of beauty is only as perfect as its canvas — there can be no perfect complexion without perfect skin.

Driven by the very same aspiration as Freud to highlight the vivacity of a splendid complexion, La Prairie has brought together caviar science and colour artistry in an unparalleled formulation that perfects and enhances the natural beauty of the skin — Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation, the first compact foundation infused with Caviar Water for complexion perfection. Encased in a cutting-edge application system, it is the art of foundation as only La Prairie can conceive it.

PERFECT DESIGN
INSIDE AND OUT

More than a pioneering fusion of skincare and complexion artistry, this foundation is also a sublime example of La Prairie’s attention to detail and design savoir-faire.

This sleek, portable compact is so innovative, La Prairie felt its refined construction, both inside and out, merited being seen.

X-RAY VISION

In order to capture Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation’s astonishing inner workings, La Prairie commissioned artist Nick Veasey to photograph its advanced technical structure using his preferred medium.

Veasey’s work with radiographic imaging equipment takes the x-ray to another level. Everyday objects are transformed from the banal to the beguiling and the layers and make-up of natural items are shown in fantastic detail. These works are a classic example of the fusion between art and science. The results transcend classification as photographs, having the gravitas to motivate science institutions and art galleries to acquire the artworks. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London have recently added his work to the British National Collection of Photography. Mr Veasey regularly exhibits at fine art galleries the world over. His fascinating works have collected a host of International awards.

“We live in a world obsessed with image,” said Mr Veasey. “I like to counter this obsession with the superficial by using X-rays to strip back the layers and show what it is like under the surface. Often the integral beauty adds intrigue to the familiar. We all make assumptions based on the external visual aspects of what surrounds us and we are attracted to people and forms that are aesthetically pleasing. I like to challenge this automatic way that we react to physical appearance by highlighting the often surprising inner beauty of an object,” he added.

The collaboration between La Prairie and Mr Veasey produced images that are at once technical and ethereal, conveying a great lyricism and grace.

Nick Veasey, Design, Lucien Freud, Xray

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BLANCPAIN AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-HORLOGERIE

Innovation as the core of Savoir-Fare.
28 Jan 2019

To measure and mark the passage of time is a uniquely human endeavour. Since our earliest ancestors recognised the lengthening and shortening of shadows across the day, we have attempted to quantify the passage of one moment to the next. Vast stone circles, hoisted into place to frame the solstices and equinoxes of the year, gave way to rudimentary candle-clocks. Sundials of varied size, shape, and accuracy led to tolling pendulums, which in turn gave rise to mechanical timepieces, quartz watches, and the digital displays of today.

Since 1735, the Swiss watch company Blancpain has upheld a dedication to the heights of excellence in timepieces creation and, as the oldest operating watch brand in the world, it continues to capture the imaginations of watch collectors everywhere. Across more than two centuries, Blancpain has demonstrated that innovation and tradition can sit hand-in-hand, and lead to results which defined—and then redefined—the watchmaking industry as a whole. Ever committed to their dedication to the handmade, the bespoke, and the exemplary, Blancpain has never produced a quartz or digital timepiece. Despite this, or maybe thanks to it, the House has remained a consistent vanguard in the world of watchmaking, and continues to set the standard for so many others to follow.

Where Time Began: Jehan-Jacques Blancpain and the Founding of a Legend

The origins of Blancpain were humble in nature. The company founder, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain was a schoolteacher from a farming family in the Swiss municipality of Villeret, whose eclectic interests led him towards a fascination with watchmaking. In the early 18th century, he converted the upper floor of his farmhouse into a horology workshop, and began building mechanical watches while horses, cows, and other livestock bustled and brayed downstairs.

The year 1735 saw Jehan-Jacques Blancpain register himself as a horloger on an official property registry in Villeret, and it is from this date that the brand’s activities are considered to have been founded. Assisted by his wife and son Isaac, Jehan-Jacques began producing timepieces for local buyers and travelling merchants, and an upward trajectory was set which would continue for several generations. It is something of a tragedy that so few examples of those first watches have survived the eras; the Blancpain family did not originally trademark their creations under their own brand name.

From those earliest days, tinkering with pocket watch components among straw bales and farmyard equipment, all the way through to the flawless reputation that the Manufacture upholds today, Blancpain has proven to be pioneer in the truest sense of the word, constantly combining the classic with the forward-looking. One only has to look at popular timepiece series such as the Villeret Collection, which demonstrates an anchoring in haute horlogerie tradition juxtaposed with a contemporary face and technicality, to see these principles in action. 

The running equation of time, the most mythical of ‘’complications’’ innovations in the history of haute-horlogerie. Here represented in the Villeret piece. Credit: ©Blancpain

Blancpain was a company founded on the principles of passion, craftsmanship and long-term vision. As such, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain was able to lay a foundation, which led to some of the most significant horology innovations and inventions the industry has ever seen. 

Sharpness, Complexity, and Changing Times 

In 1815, Blancpain was headed by Frédéric-Louis Blancpain, the great-grandson of Jehan-Jacques. Frédéric-Louis was a man of considerable foresight and ambition, and he transformed Blancpain from a small-scale craft workshop into modern, industrial timepiece producer, embracing new machinery, methods, and approaches. Frédéric-Louis’ spirit of innovation and adaptation is what led to the development of ultra-flat movements for Blancpain’s Lépine-style pocket watches. These movements allowed for the construction of slimmer, more elegant timepieces, and opened the door for higher levels of complexity and accuracy than ever before. The ultra-flat components created by Frédéric-Louis paved the way for a feature that is still central to many of the house’s watches today.

Just like the 19th century, the one which followed led to a long and impressive list of ‘firsts’ for Blancpain. In 1926, Frédéric-Emile Blancpain, along with his trusted co-manager Betty Fiechter, joined forces with the British watchmaker, John Harwood. Together, they pioneered the creation of the first patented automatic wristwatch, whose design involved a thick winding rotor as well as a rotating bezel for setting the time, instead of the traditional crown that has been entirely removed from the watch. Their collaborative creation is a most beautiful item, and utterly remarkable for the fact that it so clearly set out the blueprint for every mechanical automatic wristwatch which followed. 

Following the unexpected death of Frédéric-Emile, the helm was taken by Betty Fiechter and Frédéric’s sales director, André Léal. The new owners were more than aware of the importance of the Blancpain family heritage, and expressed a deep commitment to maintaining the company’s ethos of perpetuating authentic and sophisticated watchmaking techniques combined with a constant quest for innovation, which are both driving forces of the Manufacture.

By 1953, this commitment came to powerful fruition with the launch of the Fifty Fathoms, the world’s first modern diving watch, followed in 1956 by the world’s smallest round watch, Blancpain’s Ladybird model, to name just two key achievements. Later decades saw no slowing in the House of Blancpain as far as innovation was concerned, and no shortage of other record-breaking and industry-defining moments.

The legendary Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronograph. Credit: ©Blancpain

The Blancpain philosophy for paying tribute to the past while celebrating the future of their craft can be seen in a renowned high point of the company’s recent history. The revival of the one-minute flying carrousel came about in 2008, and immediately sent ripples of wonder through the industry and the hearts of collectors alike. Abandoned by even the most ambitious of watchmakers over a century ago as a result of its unrivalled complexity, Blancpain’s master horologists brought back this rare and unique complication, designed to counteract the effect of the natural gravitation of the earth. 

Handcrafted Innovation, from the Ocean to the Moon Phases

Blancpain, perhaps more so than any other fine watchmaker, is known for balancing the most exquisite and beautiful designs with the most complex and visionary innovations. Few timepieces in their extensive history exemplify this quite as splendidly as the Fifty Fathoms diving watch; a timepiece which pushed further the limits of the exploration of new realms in the underwater world, and which was championed and worn by those—professional divers, scientific explorers, underwater photographers, as well as several military combat swimmers corps around the world—who shared the brand’s passion for the exploration and protection of the oceans.

The Fifty Fathoms timepiece sprung from the depths of the imagination of Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Head of Blancpain from 1950 to 1980. He was a man of twin passions; of fine watchmaking, and of uncovering the hidden wonders of the sea. 

From the very beginning, the Fifty Fathoms model was designed with professional usage in mind: an unidirectional rotating bezel with clear time markings, a dark dial with contrasting white luminescent indexes and hands for a better legibility, a double sealed crown system and special sealing system for the caseback to enhance water resistance, an automatic winding movement as well as an antimagnetic protection for the movement. Result of a collaboration with the two founders of the French Navy’s combat swimmers corps—Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud—the Fifty Fathoms model was adopted by the French and US navies, and thanks to ongoing collaborations with world-class divers, later models were made to withstand depths of up to a thousand meters. 

Blancpain has mastered the art of watchmaking since the beginning of the 18th Century. Credit: ©Blancpain

Another significant jewel in the house’s crown came about some forty years after the launch of the original Fifty Fathoms. Demonstrating that honouring the past by no means dilutes a passion for innovation, the year 1991 saw Blancpain release the most complex automatic wristwatch ever made at this time: the “1735” Grande Complication. The list of elaborate and deeply impressive features on this timepiece is a lengthy one, and it includes a one-minute tourbillon regulator, perpetual calendars with a stunning moon phase indication, a chiming minute repeater, a flyback chronograph, and much more besides. Its accuracy, scope of vision, and the sheer attention to detail demonstrates an almost miraculous realization of design and technical skill, especially when one considers that these timepieces are made entirely by hand, by a single craftsman over the course of a year.

Robert Burns wrote in Tam o’Shanter that “No man can tether time or tide”. True as this may be, Blancpain and their innovative watches have shown that with artistry, craftsmanship, and a dedication to precision, it is possible to inch ever closer to what at first appears to be an unreachable goal. Tradition and innovation, far from being opposites, in fact ebb and flow as the tides beneath the moon, coming together to give rise to exemplary and pioneering creations, like luminescent pearls from the depths below. 

The beauty, prestige, and quality of Blancpain’s timepieces have seen the company survive the centuries. It is by placing innovation and savoir-faire at the core of their craftsmanship, and by preserving tradition while envisioning bold futures, however, that makes their watches truly timeless.

The one-minute flying carrousel: a unique technology brought back to life by Blancpain in 2008. Credit: ©Blancpain

 

Blancpain, High-Watchmaking, Innovation, Haute

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Magnificent Millésime

The rise of vintage champagne and the ultimate way to savour it.
3 Nov 2017

Served at society’s most elegant events and affairs, vintage champagne — known as millésime — is the epitome of decadence. 

The sumptuous wine can only be made when nature surpasses itself and produces a truly outstanding harvest. Only then can champagne houses around the world create and declare a champagne vintage when using just that year’s grapes.

In response to recent rising popularity of millésime, sophisticated fine-wine merchants, restaurants and wine clubs now offer an audacious way of appreciating it, known as a “vertical tasting”. Devotees are offered a series of vintages from a single champagne house, which allows them to savour the distinct characters of each one.

Nick Baker, Founder and Managing Director of The Finest Bubble, a prestige champagne retailer, organises legendary vertical tastings in London attended by avid collectors. 

“A vintage champagne by definition is a ‘representation of a single year’ interpreted by the chef de cave/winemaker. And one of the reasons vertical tastings exist is to highlight the vintage characteristics,” he stated.

Vertical tastings can also be used to showcase the “magnum effect” — how champagne in a magnum is subtly more complex and ages more slowly. The effect is so sublime that Nick recommends buying magnums from select outstanding years — such as 1996, 2002 and 2008 — as they are the perfectly-sized bottle suited to age vintage champagne.  

Rare and precious, truly exceptional vintage champagnes are fetching exceedingly high prices at auction. One of the highlights of Sotheby’s 2012 sale of Krug — a champagne known for its astonishing purity and precision — was a six-magnum vertical of Krug Clos du Mesnil. It sold for $42,875 — more than twice its highest estimate.

“Usually collectors are champagne lovers,” stated Stephen Mould, Sotheby’s Head of Wine, Europe. “They tend to be quite wealthy. They might be entrepreneurs; they might even be in the wine business themselves. Buyers come from throughout the world and are attracted to things that they can’t get easily elsewhere. Champagne is made in quite large quantities, but some vintages are not readily available, even from the 80s, 70s and 60s. When you get older than that they can be quite rare.”

These extraordinary wines — the result of an exquisite fusion of nature and science — are the ultimate in luxury. Each sip is a transcendental experience for the senses. Inspired by this world of rarefied indulgence, La Prairie has produced a limited edition of Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Millésime, infused with a special blend of caviar in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Skin Caviar Collection.

vintage champagne, Krug, Sotheby’s, La Prairie, Millésime

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The Art of Innovation

Enter the spellbinding world of virtual reality, where art and technology merge.
16 Mar 2018

Dedicated to innovation. A desire to be a pioneer in the worlds of both art and science. La Prairie talks to Emilie Joly, a leading Swiss virtual reality designer. 

Capturing with words what Emilie Joly does is no easy task, even for her. “It is hard to explain, but I can try,” she began. 

Positioned at the intersection of art and science through her work as CEO and co-founder of Apelab, an immersive storytelling studio based in Geneva, Switzerland and Los Angeles, Ms. Joly inhabits a unique sphere. 

Apelab, founded in 2012, conjures up interactive games, series and films which allow the viewer to glide into worlds that are the product of the imaginations of Ms. Joly and her team. 

These environments can be entered via a virtual reality headset: machines at the very edge of technology which, when worn, allow the wearer to enter and navigate a simulated situation. The best comparison, perhaps, is to imagine stepping through a cinema screen while watching a film and becoming a part of the tale being told. One can look up, down, side to side and still find the scene on the screen playing all around you. 

In more advanced virtual reality experiences, one can reach out and pick up objects that appear before the eyes by using handheld remote controls, and Apelab’s animated interactive series, Sequenced, goes even further, featuring characters in the virtual world that react to your presence as you enter their domain and move between scenes.

Here, the worlds of art and science dance around and collide into one another. The dichotomy of the creative and analytical industries is disrupted and replaced by an audacious fusion of the two. 

“Technology is the tool that we use to create something magical,” Ms. Joly, a native of Switzerland, explained. “I am driven by creativity, but it is the technology that allows us to achieve what we wish.” 

Ms. Joly is a designer by training. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Film before earning a Master’s in Interactive Design from Geneva’s University of Arts and Design. “I am a creative person at heart,” she asserted. “I started to learn how to code in order to explore new ways of telling stories.”

This curiosity has yielded exceptional results. The Sequenced series was a Sundance Institute Official Selection in 2016. It was also recognised at the Toronto Film Festival in the same year. The series presents a world in which there is only one city left on Earth and in which people are sent out to find lost populations. The most special feature of this virtual reality series is that the viewer controls the story. Every scene is embedded with more than 50 possible outcomes, making each person’s experience utterly original. 

“It is truly exciting to be at the birth of something which is going to be as big a revolution as the printed press was when it was invented, or cinema,” said Ms. Joly. 

“It is the same as with the internet and all new discoveries,” she continued. “Creators must be smart about how experiences evolve and know what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

And as to what she would say to people who believe that one is either gifted creatively or scientifically? 

“Scientists are often incredibly creative. The two are linked. It is not necessarily the same part of the brain that drives them, but those things must work together.” For Ms. Joly, this unison of disciplines has a clear endpoint. 

“It is how we achieve excellence.” 

Virtual Reality, Art, Science, Technology, Future, Innovation

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THE POWER OF LIGHT

A COLLABORATION WITH SWISS ARTIST JULIAN CHARRIÈRE
3 Jul 2018

ART BASEL

On the occasion of the launch of White Caviar CREME EXTRAORDINAIRE, Swiss luxury skincare brand La Prairie announces its patronage of Swiss artist Julian Charrière’s latest film, shot during expeditions to the frozen landscapes of the world, including glaciers in the Swiss Alps.

Based on this work and exclusively for La Prairie, Mr Charrière has created an edit inspired around the power of light: Light upon an Imaginary Space. An illuminating installation featuring this work will be on display in the La Prairie Pavilion at the Art Basel show in Hong Kong March 29-31, 2018.

LIGHT UPON AN IMAGINARY SPACE

Setting the scene in some of the world’s harshest climes, Mr Charrière uses frozen landscapes as a stage to explore the changing perception of these fascinating places, from untameable wilderness to fragile ecosystem.

In filming his work, Mr Charrière used two drones that hovered over the ice and snow by night — one equipped with a camera, the other with a spotlight. As the camera moves in and out of the light’s field, a story begins to unfold about these isolated, rarely-experienced locales. The narrative that emerges is that, without light, there is no knowing the landscape. Indeed, there is no landscape. Light has the power to expose what is hidden and to change the meaning of that which lies in darkness.

THE ARTIST

Julian Charrière was born 1987 in Morges, Switzerland and is based in Berlin, Germany. Mr Charrière’s body of work includes photography, performance and sculpture. His artistic practice includes working in remote places, where he investigates the relationship between human civilization and the natural landscape. Mr Charrière studied with Olafur Eliasson at the Institute for Spatial Experiments, Berlin University of the Arts. His work is exhibited in museums and institutions worldwide.

 

Art Basel, Light, Julian Charrière, White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire

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THE HOUSE OF WORTH AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-COUTURE

Audacity and rarity at the root of a legend.
23 Jan 2019

The world of fashion is a complex, cyclical, and ever-evolving one, a patchwork of influences, iconic figures, changing tastes and trends. However, unpick the historical thread of haute-couture and follow it back through the decades, it would eventually lead to a singular, forward-thinking figure: one whose bold ideas and unique vision laid the groundwork for the world of fashion as we know it today.

Charles Frederick Worth is widely referred to as the father of haute-couture and the founding figure of fashion as an industry and artform. Through his creations, his concepts, and his entirely new ways of approaching dressmaking, Charles Frederick Worth was able to define the image of his own era and provide inspiration for a multitude of designers that followed. Taking inspiration from the glories of times passed, while fixing his sights firmly on the future of his industry, Worth crystallised the flamboyance and beauty of the present. In doing so, he created ripples which are still felt today in the world of haute couture, which will continue to influence and inform our concept of luxury as the future unfolds.

From Humble Roots to Haute-Couture

Born in 1825 into an impoverished family in Lincolnshire, England, Charles Frederick Worth’s entry into the world of fashion was established at a young age. He spent much of his youth working as an apprentice at two different textile merchants in London. 

During his time away from the workshop, he would gaze for hours at the wonders of the National Gallery, fixated by the beauty of the dresses captured in oil paintings of historic queens and aristocratic ladies. It was in those echoing halls that Worth’s unrivalled sense of style and artistry first began to take shape, and from the billowing gowns, exquisite trimmings, and masterful artistry of previous eras, he started forming an eye for detail that would define his own future, and which would play a key role in shaping the world of fashion as we know it. 

Portrait of Charles Frederick Worth by Nadar Félix. Credit ©Ministère de la Culture -Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Félix Nadar.

Worth’s insatiable appetite for new ideas was forged in the heat of an art scene rediscovering the purity of a past, one which was free from the increasing mechanisation of England’s industrial revolution. Medieval masquerades were all the rage in London’s high society, and Romanticism and Neoclassicism were en vogue during the designer’s formative years. Worth’s path, which would combine the brilliance of regal history with the ever more flamboyant demands of high society, was being paved ahead of him. It was a path that would see his work raise fashion to the status of an unquestioned art form, and naturally, it led from London towards the glittering streets of Imperial Paris. 

Upon arriving in Paris at age twenty, Worth quickly found work with Gagelin, a major textiles company which refined and furthered what he had learned during his apprenticeship. Ever the ambitious social climber, Gagelin allowed the young artisan to open a dressmaking department as an extension of their business. It was not long before his eye-catching, distinctive work became the talk of the town; so much so that his trailblazing gowns and creations were featured in the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. This rapid ascendency allowed the young Worth to make a name for himself in Paris’ most fashionable circles, yet his star was still to rise considerably further.

Capturing the Essence of the Bespoke

Paris in the 1850s was a city in the midst of an entirely new cultural dynamism, led by the restoration of the royal house, and with Napoleon III crowning the city as a show home for new European ideas and fashions. When Napoleon wed Empress Eugenie, her exquisite fashion sense set the template for the women of high society in Paris to follow. The demand for luxury goods, especially luxurious items of dress, soared to new, dizzying heights.

In 1858, Worth was able to open his own store to showcase his creations and his new approaches to high fashion, and once Empress Eugenie began regularly stepping through his doors on rue de la Paix and commissioning works from Worth, his reputation exploded. Such patronage, such runaway popularity, and such a privileged position allowed him the full freedom to follow his instincts and passions, and realise what he once dreamed of whilst sitting on the viewing benches at the National Gallery. 

Portrait of Empress Eugénie, wearing a Worth dress, by Jean Marius Fouque, after Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Credit ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Michel Urtado.

Charismatic to the core, Empress Eugenie and her court were deeply charmed by the Englishman, and they were keen to show off the talents of their new favourite dressmaker at various state functions. Society balls at court, the intimate receptions at the Tuileries, and events like horse races in Longchamp became the 19th century equivalent of today’s fashion shows. The Parisian ladies of high society would display their latest items of haute-couture, which would be admired by figures from throughout the Second Empire and the wider world. 

While Worth’s eccentric, flamboyant and heavily elaborate designs borrowed extensively from a quasi-imagined past, his reputation and the flurry of excitement surrounding him was founded on entirely new practices which had simply never been seen before. He was, on the one hand, committed to meeting the ever-more luxurious demands of his clientele. On the other, he broke new ground by dictating the terms on which his dresses were designed, fitted and created. Prior to Worth’s arrival as a fashion designer par excellence, ladies would have selected  fabrics themselves, and their clothes would have been made from pre-existing templates. Worth’s vision, however, was based upon the uniqueness of each silhouette and fit, and from reimagining design features from prior centuries, acting as flourishes for thoroughly modern designs. In such practices, his clothing would epitomise the essence of the bespoke. Through his singularity of artistic expression, and his unshakeable belief in his talents, ideas, and creative drive, the notion of haute-couture was born.

Inventiveness to Echo Through the Ages

True artistry in any discipline rarely comes about as a result of following the crowd, and Worth was a man destined to lead with his unending roster of industry-defining ideas. Forever working by his own rules, The House of Worth was the first of its kind in many ways. His pioneering showrooms used live models rather than mannequins to display his dresses, which then would be customised and fitted to the client’s unique body shape or personal style. Furthermore, nobody prior to Worth had entertained the notion of the seasonal collection, nor had they explored bringing their designs and ideas to a truly international market. Worth was keen, from as early as 1855, to export his most original models to London and elsewhere in Europe, and by the 1860s, Worth creations were being purchased from the most luxurious department stores of New York, and beyond.

Originality, boldness and inventiveness were the core principles to which Charles Worth was committed. It is often claimed his designs were the first to ever be recognisably masterpieces of their creator. It is not easy to imagine just how groundbreaking that must have been; for the very first time, the craft of dressmaking and fashion had been elevated to the status of a high art, driven by innovation, inspiration, and with the vision of the artist taking precedence over the whims or wishes of the client. The essence of putting an individual stamp onto his work was not merely metaphorical, either, as Worth was also the first to add a signed label to this clothing. While the labels were originally printed onto the interior of the waistband, his name was so renowned that the ladies wearing his clothes would reverse the waistband, in order to display the label as a key feature of their bespoke dresses. The designer label, in the most literal sense, was thus brought into being.

Etiquette : Worth, 7, rue de la Paix, Paris Vers 1875. Localisation : Etats-Unis, Philadelphie (Pa.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. Credit ©The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Philadelphia Museum of Art

The heady, extravagant, and opulent years of the Second Empire were, of course, not to last, and Worth lived long enough to see its collapse and the disappearance of the Parisian royal court. However, due to the new paradigms in fashion dreamt up by Charles Worth, the days of traditional dressmaking had by this time disappeared forever. As with the dawn of every great artistic movement, the world of fashion had been utterly redrawn, and the demand for bespoke items, conjured from the hands of singular artists, would never waver thereafter. Haute-couture had well and truly arrived, and in the creation of this artform, Charles Worth tore up the rulebook, and  wrote one anew on pages of velvet, lace, and silk.

Worth, High-Fashion, Rarity, Haute

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Why Pollution is the New UV

Learn more about the effects of air pollution on skin.
13 Feb 2018

While overexposure to the sun can cause premature skin aging, there is also a more “invisible” threat to timeless beauty lurking in the sky. 

“Air pollution may well be the new UV,” warned Jacqueline Hill, Director of Strategic Innovation and Science at La Prairie.

Air pollution is the world’s greatest single environmental risk factor for health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is a problem that is hard to avoid — 92 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits.

Scientists have long studied the effects of air pollution on both the lungs and the cardiovascular system. However, recent research suggests that the damage caused by air pollution is even more pervasive than previously thought: just like ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun, it can have a devastating effect on the skin.

Professor Jean Krutmann from the University of Düsseldorf studied people in both Germany and China and discovered that age spots on their foreheads and cheeks increased by 25 percent with a relatively small increase in air pollution.

Another study in Mexico City revealed that people subjected to pollution were more likely to have a red complexion and higher levels of sebum, a condition that can contribute to a variety of skin issues, including acne.

Pollution can also diminish radiance, one of the skin’s most prized attributes.

The skin is home to the very cells where beauty is born, and there are ways to protect it from the ravishes of air pollution. As the skin has a natural, defensive barrier to the elements, it should not be over-washed, recommends Dr Hill. Mild cleansing products should always be used to remove pollution from the skin.

In an audacious interpretation of science and art, La Prairie’s scientists have gone beyond the limits of the imagination to produce a range of products that preserve and restore skin barrier function. There are currently only a few molecules available to counteract or prevent the detrimental effects of certain pollutants.

White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion contains polymers which form a protective layer on the skin, seeking out and isolating particles and heavy metals from air pollution that settle on skin’s surface. They are then easily washed away when the skin is next cleansed. 

Certain foundations may also help to scavenge the skin for pollutants, which are then wiped away when the make-up is removed, said Dr Hill. She recommends wearing a sunscreen that blocks UV radiation, as it would prevent photo-reactive pollutants from reacting to UV exposure.

Prevention is therefore the preferred way to transcend the effects of air pollution and maintain a timeless beauty. 

Skin aging, Skin damage, Air pollution, UV

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La Prairie Brings Artistry to the World of Complexion

La Prairie partners with acclaimed makeup artists, for complexion perfection.
11 May 2018

A NEW BEGINNING FOR COMPLEXION

In 2018, La Prairie launches Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation, the first compact foundation infused with Caviar Water for complexion perfection.  As part of the launch, La Prairie has selected three leading makeup artists from three world regions – North America, Europe and Asia – to act as La Prairie Complexion Artist Ambassadors. Working closely with La Prairie, they will develop application techniques exclusive to Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation and give masterclasses on Complexion Artistry.

PERFECT SKIN. PERFECT COMPLEXION.

While a perfect complexion is the incarnation of timeless beauty, the portrait of beauty is only as perfect as its canvas — there can be no perfect complexion without perfect skin. The newly selected La Prairie Complexion Artist Ambassadors will communicate on the importance of skincare and develop bespoke makeup application rituals that begin with perfect skin and end with the perfect complexion.

This unique collaboration conveys La Prairie’s belief that complexion perfection is an art – in fusing caviar science with colour artistry, La Prairie continues to break the codes of luxury skincare. And with their varied expertise and regional specialties, these talented Complexion Artist Ambassadors are the ideal spokespeople to communicate La Prairie’s notion that perfect skin leads to a perfect complexion.

LA PRAIRIE’S MAKEUP ARTISTRY AMBASSADORS

Working from London, Georgina Graham’s aesthetic when doing makeup on fashion shoots and runway shows is a decidedly modern version of the golden age Hollywood, complete with pristine skin. On the parallels between art and makeup artistry, Georgina said, “Makeup artistry and art are finely linked because they are connected with aesthetics. Observation, technique and taste are the common threads.” Magazines such as Vogue Paris and British Vogue turn to Georgina to create impeccable complexion looks for their shoots. She can also be found working on avant-garde projects, such as an initiative by an architectural art collective for Frieze London, an annual art fair showcasing some of the most exciting artists working today.

Based in Los Angeles, celebrity makeup artist Mai Quynh works with Hollywood’s elite, who rely on her skills to get them ready for red carpet events. Mai is known in the makeup industry for making skin look flawless under any light and will share with La Prairie devotees her expertise for preparing and caring for the skin to ensure a perfect complexion. “To me, beauty is found in the woman that is confident and comfortable in her skin,” Mai said. Some of her red carpet celebrity clients include Chloe Moretz, Daisy Ridley, Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Q, Kate Bosworth and Saoirse Ronan. Mai has spent years honing her craft in the fashion editorial world as well as working with major advertising clients, and has shot with some of the world’s biggest photographers like Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Leibovitz.

The makeup artist’s name on everyone’s lips in Hong Kong, Alvin Goh works with both regional celebrities and international clients. “I believe everyone is entitled to look and feel beautiful and to be able to empower themselves with the knowledge of makeup artistry and exquisite skincare,” Alvin said. Uma Thurman, Emma Watson and Tilda Swinton have all called on Alvin to get them camera-ready. Alvin is not only a celebrity makeup artist but also a renowned Creative Director and Fashion Stylist who had curated many exhibitions with international brands. As a leading visual artist for anything beautiful, Alvin has a keen eye for creating looks based on immaculate skin.

 

 

Complexion, Makeup, Georgina Graham, Mai Quynh, Alvin Goh

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Precious Platinum

When two mighty stars collide — the extraordinary beginnings of platinum.
6 Feb 2018

Revered for its purity, luminescence and eternal beauty, platinum is the setting of choice for the world’s finest jewels. The epitome of elegance when paired with diamonds, it evokes a world of luxury that knows no limits.

Extraordinarily rare, this precious metal fell to Earth more than four billion years ago during a cataclysmic meteor shower that lasted for more than 200 million years.

How platinum is formed had remained a longstanding mystery until an audacious discovery last year.

For the first time, scientists identified the collision of two neutron stars — the extremely dense cores of vast stars that have exploded.
After detecting ripples in space and time from the collision 130 million light years away, experts from America’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) alerted astronomers around the world so they could observe the spectacle.

Numerous scientific discoveries were made, including the fact that platinum is created when neutron stars merge, evidenced by the mesmerising flare that was produced for days after the collision.
 

“It was a beautiful event,” observed Professor Brian Metzger, an astrophysicist at Columbia University who had correctly predicted what would be seen if platinum, and other heavy metals, were produced during a neutron star collision.

“The light was very blue during the first few days. It then became very red, which told us that there were probably some of these heavier elements like platinum in the material.”

Scientists now believe that the Earth’s supply of platinum was produced by neutron stars merging in our galaxy and ejecting platinum into space long before the Earth was formed.

“The platinum in cosmetics or wedding bands was at one point probably part of one of these very extreme, unfathomably energetic explosions,” asserted Professor Metzger.

A paragon of beauty and strength, it is little wonder that platinum has been venerated throughout history. The Egyptians used it to embellish a casket dedicated to Queen Shapenapit, and in South America ancient civilisations crafted it into jewellery.

Platinum reached Europe through Spain after the conquest of the New World. Louis XVI declared it the only metal fit for royalty and in the late 1800s a fashion for platinum jewellery swept through Europe and Russia.

It has been used to set some of the world’s most iconic gems, including the stunning Koh-i-Noor, one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, which forms part of the British Crown Jewels.
 

The desire for platinum continues unabated, but its beautifying properties reach far beyond jewellery. Indeed, platinum enhances the very cells where beauty is born.

In a constant quest to include the rarest and noblest ingredients in their formulas, La Prairie scientists harnessed the timeless potency of platinum to heighten the effectiveness of a rejuvenating peptide. The result is the exquisite Platinum Rare Collection.

Elevating science to an art, La Prairie has breached the limits of the imagination and developed an Advanced Platinum Complex for its new Platinum Rare Cellular Night Elixir, the most powerful rejuvenating potion to emerge from the luxury skincare brand’s laboratories.

Steeped in the wonder of the night, the unique Elixir hails from a rarefied world where mighty stars collided in a ravishing spectacle — a world where time stands magically still.

Platinum, LIGO, gravitational waves, jewellery, neutron star

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The Masterpiece Defined

Fascinating. Surprising. Timeless. From creative work to masterpiece.
17 Aug 2018

What disparate threads, insights and ingenuity come together in the making of a masterpiece? Be it a painting, viewed by millions through the centuries, a work of architecture that reimagines what a functional structure can be or a sculpture that alters the way in which a society understands itself, what are the elements necessary to elevate a creation to a masterpiece?

"It became evident that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to articulate a definition of masterpiece that could be accepted universally," former Louvre director Henri Loyrette wrote, in the catalogue for "The Louvre and the Masterpiece," a 2009 exhibition at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Certainly, a precise summary may be hard to grasp. But we know that they are gifts to us all, objects which live beyond the limits of time. They are different anything that has come before. They teach us something new, they speak of a place in time and culture, they communicate with us in a unique way.

The Mona Lisa is the example that comes most quickly to mind. There are countless Renaissance portraits. And yet, the mystique of the seated, dark-haired woman’s smile has rendered Leonardo da Vinci’s work one which has intoxicated experts and mere observers alike. According to Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin: “The entire history of portraiture afterward depends on the Mona Lisa. If you look at all the other portraits… if you look at Picasso, at everyone you want to name, all of them were inspired by this painting.” 
This influence and intrigue, refracted through the centuries, is surely a mark of a true masterpiece. From questions of her true identity to revelations of the original brush strokes hidden under the painting’s many layers of pigment, the Mona Lisa has never ceased to surprise. But this intriguing quality alone is not enough to make a masterpiece. 

One could argue that a masterpiece begins by breaking the mould. The convention-shattering Bauhaus School of Design, for example, with its stark focus on the removal of all but the necessary, favouring minimal lines and clean finishes – so very different from the other, grander architectural and decorative conventions of the early 20th century – resulted in ground-breaking structural design, as seen in the iconic minimalist Villa Tugendhat in Brno, in the Czech Republic. 

The aesthetic principles of the Bauhaus movement’s first director, Walter Gropius, as well as those of his successors, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, reverberate around the globe today. They are evident in the 20th-century tower blocks of Europe, with their lack of adornment and dedication to simplicity. And yet, in the beginning, the Bauhaus school of faced persecution by conservative political powers, fearing its radical innovation and commitment to new ways of thinking. 

Perhaps the most startling paradox of a true masterpiece is the way in which it is both iconic - endlessly depicted and referenced - and yet forever mysterious. Imagine the infinite replications of symbolist Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s 1912 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also known as ‘The Lady in Gold’ - forever followed by questions as to the exact nature of the painter’s relationship to his muse. 

In this case, the curiosity stems – at least in part – from the resplendent use of shimmering tones: 

“The golden image of Adele Bloch-Bauer I cast a spell over me even as an art history student,” said Dr. Tobias Natter, Vienna-based art historian.

It could also be due to the unique historical context in which the piece was produced when women were striving for educational and social freedom. 

“Gustav Klimt’s brilliant artistic career coincided with a period of profound cultural, social and political ferment that witnessed fundamental changes in the position women occupied in society,” notes writer and curator Dr. Jill Lloyd, in Natter’s 2016 book Klimt and the Women of Vienna's Golden Age, 1900–1918. 

This curiosity about both the techniques used and the social context in which the work was produced highlights its status as a masterpiece.

Be it through its mystery, its influence, its beauty or its context, a masterpiece above all tells a story – of what has been and what is now. It draws lines from those who came before to us in our present world, from each individual to the other, through shared values and appreciation for the timeless. 
 

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 (oil, silver & gold on canvas), Klimt, Gustav (1862-1918) / Neue Galerie, New York, USA / De Agostini Picture Library / E. Lessing / Bridgeman Images

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A CONVERSATION WITH MARIO BOTTA

The renowned Swiss architect speaks about his inspiration.
20 Dec 2018

On the occasion of the launch of the latest Platinum Rare innovation, La Prairie collaborated with architect Mario Botta on an exclusive Archisculpture, revealed recently at the 2018 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach. We sat down with Mr. Botta to learn more about his career trajectory, his views on the place of architecture in society, and where he finds inspiration.

Mario Botta, Art Basel, Art, Architecture, Interview

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MELLERIO AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-JOAILLERIE

Cultivating heritage as a way to move forward.
23 Jan 2019

Power and prestige, innovation and preservation, unrivalled beauty and far-reaching heritage: Such are the pillars which support Mellerio, the world’s oldest haute-joaillerie house. Across fourteen generations and four centuries, Mellerio has decorated monarchs and provided items of jewellery for society’s highest figures and establishments. Today, this eminent family continues to create custom-made objects, highly sought-after by private buyers and collectors alike.

Enriched by their traditions, driven by craftsmanship, and helped along the way by the patronage of powerful historical figures, Mellerio deftly mines its past as a powerful dynamic force, and balances tradition and exploration as twin cornerstones of its identity. The House’s pursuit of brilliance in luxury has always been based upon a relentless inventiveness, and its era-spanning past provides a foundation on which its future is continually constructed anew. 

Fourteen Generations of Unrivalled Excellence

Prior to their fortuitous relocation to Paris from the Lombardy village of Craveggia in the 16th century, the Mellerio family were travelling silversmiths, carrying their wares and crafted items from place to place. However, the company founder, Jean-Marie Mellerio, then under the guidance of Queen Marie de’ Medici, decided to take his family firm to new heights and to an enduring home in the French capital in the early years of the 17th century. Thus began a deep and lasting connection of the Maison with royalty and regality; one which saw the family working for many Royals from Marie Antoinette to Empress Josephine, and from the Maharani of Kapurthala to the royal houses of Spain, the Netherlands, and beyond.  

The origins of these mutually beneficial royal associations have slipped into apocrypha over time. The most enduring of these legends involves silversmith Jean-Marie Mellerio helping to foil an assassination plot against King Louis XIII. This supposedly led to the royal decree by Marie de’ Medici in 1613 which granted special privileges to the Mellerio family, and positioned them as favourites at the French royal court. 

That Mellerio continued to gain the patronage of royal dynasties across the centuries, legends aside, should come as no great surprise: after all, who better to decorate the great dynasties of the world than a great dynasty of artists? Establishing the name of Mellerio as jewellers of unrivalled prestige, the Maison developed a clear mission: to ensure that each successive generation of Mellerio artists remained deeply aware of their heritage, whilst envisioning the path laid ahead. 

A jeweller from Mellerio’s workshop working on the placement of a precious gem. Credit ©Mellerio

The lengthy list of ‘firsts’ achieved by members of each generation clearly demonstrates such vision in action. The Mellerio were the first family to open a shop on the esteemed Rue de la Paix, a move made by Francois Mellerio in 1815. A few years later, in 1854, the Mellerio family patented an innovative flexible shank setting, furthering the evolution of haute-joaillerie as a whole, whilst also serving as a reminder of the company’s origins as silversmiths of the highest order. 

The impetus to perpetuate the past while continually remaining tied to the contemporary times is a defining feature of Mellerio. It is embedded in certain unutterably delicate items, deemed as among the company’s highest points in their illustrious history. Among them, The Mellerio Shell Tiara, a unique and dazzling piece made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition, which was best known as being a public favourite of Sofia, the former Queen of Spain. Being the first ever item of jewellery to use platinum as a principal decorative metal, the Mellerio Shell Tiara represented a significant milestone for the industry. The blending of the contemporary and the timeless, bringing together high fashion and tradition, led to a showpiece which has radiantly shone as a key part of a dynastic convention.

The Mellerio Shell Tiara, made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition. Credit ©Mellerio

Protecting Treasures, Preserving Values

Each successive generation of the Mellerio family has been meticulous in the preservation of every single commission, receipt, letter, and design made over the past few hundred years, resulting in a jewellery archive at the Maison Mellerio unlike any other. 

This emphasis on preservation played a key role in the history of Mellerio, not least during the turbulent years at the end of the 18th century. The revolution of 1789 was perhaps the most obvious and world-changing of Mellerio’s disruptive phases, as it broke the foundation the Mellerio family had established for themselves alongside the French monarchy. 

Before the fleeing Mellerio family made their journey to the Spanish royal court, the House made sure to protect many items favoured by the doomed royals, as a gesture of respect to their most esteemed clients. The Mellerio archives in Craveggia, Lombardy, where Mellerio was born, still feature clothing worn by Marie Antoinette and a host of royal seals and documents; further evidence of the close bond and mutual respect which existed between the House of Mellerio and the court of Versailles. 

The recent Madreperla earings attest of Mellerio’s long  tradition of innovation and high craftsmanship. Credit ©Mellerio

The commitment to preservation, protection, and resistance throughout eras of great unrest is pivotal in understanding the Mellerio timeline. Indeed, the history of this great family has been typified as being made up of several distinct cycles, including three key components: anchoring, disruption, and resilience. The jewellery House has repeatedly entrenched itself within a location and an era and was each time reborn after being upended and disrupted in some dramatic manner. The revolution, the occupation of Paris during the Second World War, and untimely deaths of key family members would all be counted on such a list. This cycle has always invariably ended with a newly-established Maison Mellerio into a new age, with steely determination and a wealth of new ideas, patrons, and influences.

Inheriting the Past, Crafting the Future

The family as a chain and its duty to preserve the past is only one side of the glittering coin defining Mellerio’s identity. The House of Mellerio keenly recognises their ancient heritage, forged by individuals influenced by the style and fashions of their time, who brought their own unique talents to the family. Jean-Francois Mellerio, who oversaw the company in the mid-19th century, put great emphasis on draughtsmanship and painting in the design process. To this day, all Mellerio designs are first carried out with brush and paint, partly to ensure the highest levels of quality, and partly to continue the techniques he championed.

Such pioneers’ craftsmanship and vision have led to the creation of genuine wonders. The imitation of nature, as seen in the Peacock Aigrette presented to the Maharani Rani Prem Kaur, remains one of Mellerio’s most iconic pieces. This item, so pristine with the feathers, colours, and the bejewelment of the bird, was crafted thanks to the use of groundbreaking new techniques, bringing together multiple enamels, gold, and diamonds, making this treasured creation one of the most impressive examples of Mellerio’s innovative talent.

Peacock Aigrette: Mellerio created this piece in 1905 for Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. It is featured in portraits of the Maharaja’s fifth wife, Rani Prem Kaur. Credit: @Mellerio

 As the new millennium dawned, the company philosophy of excellence, timeless craftsmanship, and forward-thinking design was proven intact once more. A powerful example came in the year 2005, which saw the release and patenting of the Mellerio Exclusive Cut; a stunning oval diamond cut made up of fifty-seven glittering facets and offering unrivalled brilliance. One of their latest series, the Isola Bella collection, celebrates the baroque beauty of the palace of Lake Maggiore, and clearly demonstrate the house’s ongoing commitment to blending the classical with the contemporary. The striking Madreperla ring and earrings in this collection recall the splendour and vivid mastery seen on items such as the Peacock Aigrette, and provide a testament to Mellerio’s dedication to unwavering excellence in a modern haute-joaillerie market. 

The Madreperla ring from a recent collection. Credit ©Mellerio

Preservation and commitment to the contemporary world, far from being polar opposites, are two of the key pillars of the Mellerio family — values that have allowed the House to continually dazzle with new ideas, while consistently paying homage to a past which has been providing endless inspiration. By addressing their illustrious past, Mellerio carve new paths for future generations to follow. The essence of the contemporary never ceases to evolve; that of the timeless, however, remains eternal.

Mellerio, High Jewellery, Heritage, Haute

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Capturing Light in Art

Depicting Light, from the Ethereal to the Avant-Garde.
12 Mar 2019

The luminous haloes of Byzantine icons. The warm glow radiating from the skin of Renaissance masters. The Impressionists’ nebulous sunsets. Light, and all that it symbolises, can be found everywhere in the canon of art history, and artists have illuminated their works through a wide variety of methods ever since. Gold leaf gave way to meticulously detailed oils, which in turn led to broad brushstrokes, then to paint slapped onto the canvas with palette knives. The neon tubes, cathode rays, and uplit, nebulous clouds of light we see in 20th and 21st-century art installations may be imbued with the shock of the new, and yet they are at once the evolution of something truly ancient.

Expressing both the light without and the light within have been parts of the modus operandi of artists since time immemorial. After all, enlightenment is both literal and metaphorical, and art is our greatest tool with which to cast away the shadows of mediocrity. Today, galleries act as beacons, calling us through the fog of reality and nurturing us by beams of light, bestowed by those who create. 


The Light Within: Painting Holy Fire

In the centuries prior to the advent of electric light, the world was a shadowy place, and the studios of artists would have been illuminated by flickering candlelight and glowing embers. Light in art during the early and late Renaissance — and indeed, prior to this in early Christian art) — was rarely, if ever, used in a naturalistic fashion. Rather, it was used symbolically; the light depicted was invariably the light of God, either radiating from the souls of saints and deities or burning as a holy fire beneath the skin of men. 

This can be seen perhaps most enduringly in the paintings of Rembrandt. The subjects of this extraordinary portraitist, which frequently include peasants and workers, as well as the artist himself, glow with a golden light which comes from within. This was not just a stylistic flourish of the Dutch master, it was how he claimed to see humanity. The same can be said for Caravaggio, whose masterpieces show shadows broken with shards of Holy fire. For these exemplary painters and their contemporaries, paint was a medium which allowed the metaphysical into our lives. In an age of candlelight, the effect was doubtlessly awe-inspiring. 

Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio. Madrid, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. ©2019. Photo Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza/Scala, Florence.

Parting Clouds and Painting Sunlight

Once the painters of light stepped out of the studios and into the open air, however, it became clear that the natural (and importantly, the contemporary) world, when captured on canvas, was every bit as magnificently lit as the biblical subjects of Renaissance Italy and honourable peasantry of the Dutch masters. Capturing the light of the world on canvas became a humanist endeavour, a chance for escapism from newly industrialised cities, and a secular expression of liberation, and a romanticism of natural forces.

By painting almost nothing but light and air, J.M.W. Turner’s skyscapes forged scandal from their breathtaking emptiness and heart-stopping beauty. The Impressionists captured light as fleeting moments, and yet their works were no less beautiful for their evanescence. Rather than lighting their subjects with golden paint, such artists used light as their subject. In doing so, they explored new ways of using paint to explore the experience of sunlight, the sensation of sunrise, the daily spectacle of the multi-hued dusk and dawn.

Landscape with River and Bay in the Background by J. M. W. Turner. Paris, Louvre. © 2019. Photo Scala, Florence.

The Gallery as Lightbox

The floodgates of light art were well and truly broken in 1930 when the Hungarian artist Maholy-Nagy debuted his groundbreaking installation ‘Light Prop for an Electric Stage’. Created to showcase the movement of light itself, it stunned gallery-goers upon its release and sparked furious debate regarding the direction European art was heading. That direction was, of course, further and further into the illumination of a deeply literal kind. Illumination in art had become less about golden pigments, and more about exploring the potential of light, colour, and form, and reducing these components to the barest and most spectacular essentials.

During the 1960’s heyday of minimalism and light art, critics and art commentators would regularly seek deeper meanings in light art installations. The glow emitted from such works was often proclaimed to forge a clean and convenient link between the avant-garde of the 20th century, and the light of God depicted in the aforementioned works of the Renaissance. The artists in receipt of such comparisons, namely Dan Flavin and James Turrell, would go to great lengths to refute them. Indeed, light artists at the time began going to great lengths to create more transparency in their installations, being sure to leave cables and power outlets visible to the gallery attendees. In doing so, light art entered a newer, altogether more humanistic and conceptual phase. This ongoing approach can be seen with stunning effect in François Morellet’s piece, ‘Sens dessus dessous no2‘, which takes the concept of ‘the light without and within’ in a strikingly literal sense. 

Sens dessus dessous n°2 by François Morellet. Photo ©Adagp, Paris, 2019 - Cliché : Adagp images.

In the later 20th century, and at the turn of the millennium, light art blended with both minimalism and psychedelia, producing prismic fantasies and the sci-fi visions of emerging talents such as Chul-Hyun Ahn. Using light and colour to strike the viewer with haunting matrices and enigmatic illusions, the groundwork laid by mid-century minimalist pioneers is given a new lease of life and new relevance in today’s gallery spaces. Such spaces remain beacons amid the monotony, ever-eager for immersive works which trick the eyes and delight the senses. The appetite for the ephemeral, and for the flickering glow of imaginary cities brought safely indoors, has never been stronger. 

Vertical Lines #4, 2012, Edition of 3 plywood, fluorescent lights and mirrors, by Chul-Hyun Ahn. Photo courtesy of C. Grimaldis Gallery.

Light Art: Humanising the Ethereal

The appeal and demand for light art is, fittingly, a multi-faceted one, and one which reflects an enduring fascination with the depiction and capturing of light. Contemporary light art revels in the fact that its creation is not divinely inspired, but is instead a wholly human endeavour; the artist’s ability to fill vast spaces with wonder is a testament to the ingenuity and imagination of man. 

Light artists drive home a further message with their creations. The feeling of awe we experience, whether standing before the golden warmth casting hope through Caravaggio’s darkest canvases or a futurist light installation, remains entirely the same. Light draws us out from the darkness. It guides us, comforts us, bedazzles our senses. It is as universal and vital as it is unknowable. Such works allow us the time and space in which to gaze into the light, before coming away enriched, bettered, and enlightened. Our inner light, the sun itself; such things are unreachable. Captured in oils and neon, however, they become a part of our world.

Art, Light, Installation, Illumination

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La Prairie Invites: Milo Keller

A Conversation with University of Art and Design Lausanne ECAL’s Head of Photography.
20 May 2019

The American artist Ansel Adams once claimed that “there are two people in every picture: the photographer, and the viewer”. Today, we live in an age in which, via the advent of our smartphones and their plethora of instant editing technologies, we have all become both photographers and viewers of innumerable images. It is, as such, arguable that the true craftsmanship and artistic eye of the photographer has become somewhat threatened by the 21st century, clouded by the endless cavalcade of photographic images we both produce and consume on a daily basis.

How important it is then, that the aforementioned craft and artistry of photography remains nurtured, encouraged, and driven forward by certain centres of excellence, and spearheaded by those who are laying pathways for new generations of photographers to follow. The Ecole Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne (ECAL) is regularly proclaimed as one of the best art and design schools in the world, and with almost two hundred years of pioneering expertise as a powerful foundation on which to build, the school remains a beating heart of innovation and excellence for its field. La Prairie had the exclusive opportunity to speak with ECAL's Head of Photography, Milo Keller, and gain insight into his thoughts on the evolution of photography, and where the future of his craft may lie.

Keller’s life has been one in which cameras, lenses, and photographic film have always been present. Speaking of his love for photography, he is drawn, perhaps inevitably, to thoughts and memories of early childhood. Keller’s grandfather was an amateur photographer, who captured his travels throughout Asia and Africa on film. However, it was Keller’s father, an architect who shared the professor’s love for the impact of light and shade, who was his first mentor. At just six years old, the young Keller began experimenting with reflex cameras, and discovered that photography was the one form of expression which felt natural, and which allowed him to begin building a visual language which was entirely his own. This perhaps offers a clue as to why Keller went on to tirelessly foster new talent, and why he remains keen as ever to candidly discuss his visions for the future of his craft.

Architecture is clearly one of the most significant inspirations behind your work, and something which continues to inform your output. In your mind, how do photography and architecture mutually influence one another?

Before even the invention of film, architectural designers were busily generating images. They may not have been photography, but in many senses, they were the origins of something which would eventually lead to photography as we know it today.

In both photography and architecture, we are always focused on and always dealing with concepts of both light and space. Defining the darkness, illuminating space, and pinning down the essence and meaning of light sits at the very crux of so much of what we do. Once we determine where they can be found, the interplay between these universalities creates that all-important sense of three-dimensionality.

As we look back through the origins and the invention of photography, we invariably arrive at the camera obscura, the genesis of the media reliant on the architectural space. Through the camera obscura and other such methods, both architecture and photography arose and deepened side by side.

It could be said that at its core, the etymology of photography involves writing in light. As such, both worlds are connected to and bridged by this immaterial element.

Photography by ECAL graduate Jean-Vincent Simonet.

Photography has been greatly influenced by new advancements in technology, not only today, but consistently throughout its history as an art and a craft. How do you feel technological advancements have added to photography, and do you believe, as many do, that it has taken something away from photography as a form of artistic expression?

Photography, of course, began with science, with the invention of the Daguerreotype and the innovations apparent in the early art of the 19th century.

Since its inception, the craft of photography has been plagued by a tireless back-and-forth between technology and creativity. The problem, it seems, centered around the legitimacy of photography as a fine art. Early technology related to photo-making as an applied art; that is, an artform which was in service to something or someone. However, it’s also vital to keep in mind that this period of history was also marked by the production of incredible works of photography, many of which are found in fine art museums today, where they continue to inspire and amaze.

In more recent years, we have cultivated an intimate relationship between technology and photography, and the same back-and-forth remains constant and consistently present.

Technologies now grow side-by-side with photography, and this continues to open doors and provide new pathways to explore. In essence, to make photography today is to seek the creative potential into new forms of image production. As any artist will tell you, this remains an unending search, and yet, this also remains a factor which makes photography both very exciting, and keeps it at the cutting edge of contemporary art.

So, when speaking about how we bridge the gap between the immediacy of new technologies and a long-appreciated craft, you feel that the gap itself is a key aspect in what makes photography compelling?

Yes, this is something I have worked on extensively across my career. Here at ECAL, we proudly remain an applied art school. In fact, we are particularly fond of this term; it allows us to switch between fine to an applied art, and it gives the students freedom to move back and forth as well. This flexible approach allows us to teach them almost everything and explore different avenues of the same consistent vision.

We begin with the history of the medium and linking analogic black and white photography to the future of art as a whole. Students learn how to use small, medium, and larger-form cameras, and even recreate images in styles borrowed from the 19th century. It’s endlessly fascinating to see how certain techniques lend themselves to certain styles, and how the past in photography never fails to offer so much to the present.

We teach our students how to develop black-and-white themes, how to print, and how to work in a dark room. However, at the same time, we also instruct our students in how to use digital cameras, how to use multiple software, and experiment with virtual reality and all relatively new technologies which were not long ago at the very cutting edge of photography and image making, but which we are all increasingly familiar with. These groundbreaking techniques are already prevalent in commercial activity, and yet they are also gradually coming into the fine art world, and helping new artists establish their visual language. So, it is truly a form of acrobatic teaching, contingent on diverse specialists from across the field.

Photography by ECAL graduate Clément Lambelet.

As a professor, have you noticed any significant differences between the stylistic approaches of up-and-coming photography students, in comparison to more established photographers? 

Absolutely yes. There is no getting away from the fact that, although all of the professors at ECAL have a deep and profound knowledge in their respective fields, we learn so very much from our students. As digital natives, they have grown up with the internet, with video games, and mobile devices at their fingertips, and as such they have a familiarity and capability with such devices which allows them to explore several platforms at once. This immediately lends itself to the creation of whole new aesthetics, which are immersed fully in a digital culture which is entirely their own.

Why is it so important to foster young talent today, and how does ECAL support their students during and after their academic studies?

During the academic curriculum, we do not just invite external guests to ECAL, we also regularly collaborate with brands and with magazines. This fosters an awareness of business practice, especially in knowing how to deal and speak with future clients and customers. At the very same time, we pair with important cultural institutions, including C/O Berlin, Foam in Amsterdam, Festival Images Vevey. Seasoned curators are also here quite regularly, working on portfolio reviews at ECAL.

Together, with the new Master Photography program, we do partake in research projects involving cutting-edge technologies, inviting practitioners and scholars who work together searching for creative potential in the new contemporary photography techniques. We have completed a first research project called Augmented Photography which has allowed us to give a strong identity to the Master Photography.

In addition, we benefit from extensive travel opportunities, and have been fortunate enough to take the students to Rio de Janeiro, Cuba, New York, and soon, to Tokyo. Major annual photography events, such as Paris Photo in November and Photo London in May are part of our academic calendar, and we often find ourselves organizing exhibitions during the fairs. At these particular times of the year, we aim to reconnect current students with alumni as we spend time together celebrating photography

What do you hope to see in the future of photography?

It is my sincerest hope and wish that my students will become a part of the future, not merely the future of photography, but of photographic images and all that this entails. As we have moved into the 21st century, it has become clear that the future of our teaching, our students, and our approach overall should move beyond traditional photography, and into a realm which challenges the connection between the art and applied forms. This means seamlessly transitioning from CGI worlds (Computer Generated Imagery), made of virtual landscapes to reality. I envision photography losing its constraint in traditional automatic approaches, and instead embracing tradition alongside more progressive and groundbreaking views.

I’m confident this will come to pass one way or another. I continue to see inspiring, encouraging exhibitions and options which fully support this vision, and the future of photography is rolling out before us in unstoppable and deeply inspiring ways.

Photography by ECAL graduate Florian Amoser.

Finally, if you were able to take your thoughts, feelings, and instincts regarding photography, and distill it to one piece of advice to offer emerging creative talents, what would that advice be?

It’s very simple: Be yourself. Do not pause too long to mull over what clients wish to see, do not ponder or struggle with thoughts of cultural institutions. First and foremost, think about something for yourself, attempt to explore yourself, and create that visual language all artists have within themselves. Embrace and explore your native creativity, construct your own artistic vocabulary and allow it to manifest in your own voice. After all, if you try to do something for others, then you are always in danger of losing your specificity and your interest.

The answer is quite definitive: find your own way of seeing.

Art, Photography, ECAL, Talents

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The perfect encounter

How the synergy of art and science has elevated beauty throughout history.
20 May 2019

Since the dawn of time, humanity has sought answers to the secrets of the universe through its most mystical channels: the charm of art and the discovery of science. Together, their overlap creates a pathway to understanding what captivates us across fields, holding the ultimate key to truly understanding the power of beauty. By dazzling with aesthetics and educating with science, these mysteries can truly be revealed. Those who are curious and passionate can find joy in both subjects; through calculation and expression, both schools of thoughts experiment, then align to provide us with the foundation to illuminate what has thus far remained a mystery. Art is the way we display that newfound knowledge.

Since Ancient Greece, the linguistic overlap between technique and technology has dictated the evolution of art as a tool: Technê τέχνη is translated both as art or craft and as the root of "technology". The linguistic subtlety mirrored the development of art as a skill, as pottery, sculpture, and other artisanal building blocks of pigment and color theory, which all paved the way for antiquity’s masterpieces. As art also became two-dimensional, the significance of linear and geometric formulas leveraged science for paintings, drawings, and the art of modernity.

THE OBSERVATION OF A MASTER

The Renaissance was defined by an all-encompassing curiosity. In 15th-century Europe, discovery and creativity went hand-in-hand as intellectuals strove to develop answers to questions in medicine and music, art and arithmetic. In order to find these solutions, artistic intuition paired with observational mastery. This unification of thought was a guiding force during this pivotal era and served to set the stage for critical thinking throughout history.

To this end, art has always been influenced by science. Both the science and art of today began in the Renaissance, culminating with Leonardo da Vinci’s insatiable quest to challenge the universe’s largest, unanswerable questions. A keen observer of the world around him, he applied this fascination to the works he created. As Walter Isaacson’s authoritative biography explained, his extraordinary curiosity made science his true passion. Around gravity and human nature, it was love affair bordering on obsession. He gathered copious notes on the motions and sounds of machines and mammals, even the inner-workings of childbirth, and discovered breakthroughs in aviation, music, and medicine that would not be developed for centuries to come, even predating Galileo by more than a century. Da Vinci was constantly experimenting and theorising, looking for patterns in the rhythm of life. This interconnectedness across art, science, and inevitably, humanity  allowed his portraits to truly capture the essence of his models, seeing the world within the individual. His ever-inquisitive mind led him to partner with mathematician Luca Pacioli for their patron Duke Ludovico Sforza in Milan. An early accountant and a frontrunner in what is now known as double-entry bookkeeping, Pacoli taught Leonardo da Vinci mathematics, and had a significant impact in the artist’s understanding of proportion and symmetry. This partnership resulted in Divina Proportione (the Divine Proportion), a book developing the idea of perfect proportions in art through scientific drawings and sketches designed by da Vinci himself.

This duplicity drives viewers to delight in his work, and is synonymous with the Renaissance value of curiosity. Because he thought differently and saw the connivance between art and science, his genius continues to be esteemed and echoed into modern day.

Page taken from De Divina Proportione written by Luca Pacioli, illustrated in 1509 by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Photo: ©White Images/Scala, Florence. 

POINT BY POINT, AN ARTISTIC VISION

Cross-categorical thought processes fostered in the Renaissance were pushed forward into modernity, eventually leading to the late 19th century’s groundbreaking accessibility in art. With the developments of chemistry, artists had access to new materials on daily basis, opening a whole new world of opportunities to experimentation with different techniques. At the same time, scientists tried to explain just about everything with mathematical formulas. For a while, it looked like everything would become explainable, including people’s feelings when exposed to art.

When Georges Seurat developed his interest in colour theory in the 19th century, the result was simple yet revolutionary. During his lifetime, scientists had demonstrated how the human eye perceives a colour in relation to its surroundings. It was then thought that mixing red and blue to form a purple pigment was becoming unnecessary as the same effect could indeed be achieved with dots in those same colors, only displayed side by side. Georges Seurat believed this dotted purple to be more energetic and vibrant than mixed pigments, as the colour was then created in the mind of anyone who would peer down into his paintings.

While this science later ultimately proved false, Georges Seurat’s paintings possessed a special charm, in which the space between his dots created light to filter through the canvas. The technique came to be known as Pointilism—from dots—although it was more accurately Divisionism, the division of colour, while Georges Seurat referred to his work as Chromoluminarism. Regardless of the labels it bore, this style markedly defined outlasting movements, in its characterization of electrifying new colors, daring techniques, and a clear innovative vision.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. 1884
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, 1926.224.© 2019.
Photo: ©The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY/ Scala, Florence. 

MOVING FORWARD: KINETIC ART OF THE 21st CENTURY 

Building on the advances of 20th century painting, advances in 21st century technology allowed the artworks themselves to become mobile. The work of Alexander Calder and Naum Gabo took the energetic shapes from the canvas to sculpture, distilling them into abstraction.

One strong example of this is Linear Construction in Space No.2. Naum Gabo leveraged the discourse on the growing power of revolutionary ideas in his early life to create moveable sculpture, illuminating the tectonics of change. This work was made in twenty iterations, with nylon fibers catching the light as they shift. The many evolutions have been displayed in the most renowned museums around the world, setting the stage for kinetic interactive art of the future.

Alexander Calder also understood the value of motion, coalescing with the Arts and Crafts movement of California to build on tool-making and creation. Developing scientifically powerful kinetic sculpture relied on a methodical system to test various styles of movement, ultimately allowing for a successful result to come alive.

Naum Gabo, Linear Construction in Space No.2. 1957-58 © 2019
Photo: ©Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.

THE DIGITAL ART AGE 

For contemporary artists, today’s ever-evolving stream of scientific developments represent a bottomless source of inspiration, allowing for original works of art that would have been thought to be impossible only a few decades ago. The previously unimaginable or at least inconceivable works are now being made a reality through the creation art objects challenging both the mind and the body, going beyond human limitations. 

Fabian Oefner, Dancing Colors, 2013
Photo: ©Studio Oefner.

Artist Fabian Oefner offers to visualise sound. Seeking to turn soundwaves into visual works of art, he focuses on the movement of sound to bring it to life. By affixing thin plastic foil with small crystals on a loud speaker, he allows for the motion to dictate the artistic result. With the sound, the crystals come alive, in a vibrant and ever changing picture.              

One exceptional harness of the power of science is LIVING CELLS by Paul Coudamy. Produced in collaboration with La Prairie for the 2017 edition of Art Basel in Basel, the geometric structure of lacquered steel and magnets has been precisely defined according to the mathematical formula known as Weaire-Phelan. The construction of LIVING CELLS began with modeling each bead and its spatial assembly. These forms were cut in steel using lasers and digital folding following a numbered pattern, then hand-welded to build the structure. Shiny black magnetised marbles – reminiscent of caviar – appear to colonise the structure in clusters, spreading out like a living entity over a static skeleton. The overall volume is in constant flux, as the magnetic tensions of the marbles are forever creating new, unique forms. As the artist explained, “the concept of LIVING CELLS is to bring a confrontation between nature, geometry and science.”

LIVING CELLS, Paul Coudamy, 2017.

CHALLENGING THE CONFINES OF DATA 

In the digital age of the 21st century, the intersection between art and the Internet is not just inevitable, but increasingly prevalent. The impact of the Internet on the creation of digital art continues to grow, with a number of artists, known as algorists, co-creating with computers through Internet platforms and algorithms, qualified as algorithmic art. Relying on the computer algorithm to generate its design, it came to fruition following a conference in 1995, although fractal artwork in the 1980s, computer-inspired art in the 1960s, and even Oriental tile patterns bear similarities to this innovative movement. Often showcased on a computer screen, algorithmic works of arts offer a meta-analysis of their own form, using the same mechanism for creation and display.

Founding algorist Jean-Pierre Hebert was at the forefront of this movement, using sand and other temporal materials in the mid-90s, spreadsheets and datasets function in place of paint and canvas. Engagement data gathered from surveys or consumers behavior is subsequently transferred using sophisticated mining software, relied on by scientists and journalists alike. These methodologies speak to the 21st century changing world of analytics, fostering a modern personal expression. Through robotics and data visualisations as art, human truth is revealed. 

Refik Anadol, Melting Memories, 2018
Photo: ©Designed & Developed at Refik Anadol Studio.

One such groundbreaking artist is Refik Anadol, whose ‘Melting Memories’ work syncs brain scans of donated memories to his computer for visual representation. The result is staggering—the memory is constantly shifting and realigning, coming alive binding human behavior and scientific connection.

In many ways, the algorithmic work of the 21st century has its roots in Renaissance questions. Who are we? Why do we matter? As the untold stories of the universe are revealed through science, they are fleshed out through art. This mutual relationship of art and science is the result of strong influence, an outstanding synergy that has been creating beauty by visualising philological questions on the edges of our understanding of reality. The poetry of the unknown is served through these influences, allowing our questions to slowly find answers in their exquisite uncertainty.

Art, Science, Beauty

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Mastering the Art of Caviar

Celebrate 30 years of magical caviar with audacious La Prairie.
19 Oct 2017

Rare and sumptuous, caviar has been the ultimate in decadence since the time of the Tsars, evoking an elite world of fine living, nobility and opulence. The epitome of pleasure and tasteful indulgence, the sophisticated luxury is endlessly coveted. In a poetic reflection of its refined status, the delicacy’s luminescent beads glimmer like precious pearls that could never be replaced.

Caviar hails from the mysterious depths of cobalt blue seas. Deep within these pristine waters lies an enchanted place where nature performs miracles. Thirty years ago, La Prairie discovered one of them — caviar is the key to a world of beauty with no temporal limits.

The luxury skincare brand broke the codes of luxury and became the first to use the unparalleled potency of caviar as a privileged indulgence for the skin. Elevating science to an art, in 1987 La Prairie launched its Skin Caviar Collection, a paragon of refinement infused with the restorative powers of caviar, a magical source of rich nutrients.

The innovation was as audacious as it was masterful, showcasing La Prairie’s devotion to sourcing rare and precious ingredients to hold back time.

The Skin Caviar Collection transcended all expectations and quickly became an iconic elixir of longevity. “Since the launch of La Prairie Skin Caviar, the level of luxury beauty products was raised to the highest point,” stated the Luxury Activist website.

With a truly unique combination of Swiss precision, scientific innovation and daring, La Prairie has constantly expanded the celebrated collection.
Harnessing the unparalleled firming and lifting benefits of caviar, the brand has produced ever more artful interpretations, such as Skin Caviar Eye Complex and Skin Caviar Liquid Lift.

The brand’s latest innovation, Skin Caviar Absolute Filler, captures the most elusive ingredients in caviar and combines them to enhance their potency. Harper's Bazaar is more than impressed. “All things considered, it's one of the most luxurious and effective moisturizers I've ever slathered on my skin,” the publication affirmed.

The entire collection includes La Prairie’s legendary Exclusive Cellular Complex, which utilises cutting-edge science to enliven the very cells where beauty is born.

Since its miracle inception, the Skin Caviar Collection has remained the luxury of choice, revered as the quintessence of effectiveness fused with indulgence. Each product — from silky serums to lavish creams — transports its owner to a place of exquisite extravagance simply by gracing the skin.

Now is the time to join La Prairie as it celebrates 30 glorious years of artful indulgence, and honour the extraordinary wonder that is caviar — a rarefied gift of timeless beauty.

Caviar, La Prairie, skincare, luxury, Skin Caviar Collection

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The Art of Tasteful Gifting

A modern guide to gifting etiquette during the holiday season.
18 Dec 2017

Gifts are a poetic expression of affection and appreciation. They help define relationships and strengthen intimate bonds, enriching both the giver and the receiver.

The enchantment of receiving a refined gift lies in being transported to a world of pure decadence, a place where desire and mystery come together in an inspiring and audacious union.

But the enchantment of giving a refined gift is far greater. It is the awe-inspiring knowledge of having given the most precious present of all – time, which stands tantalisingly still on each occasion that the precious luxury is used.

Successful gifting is a veritable art form. It speaks of consideration, immaculate manners and indulgence perfected.

But like any social ritual, the risk of impropriety is never far away, and a misjudged present can risk souring a relationship.

In order to master the art of gifting, here are some recommendations to consider:

1. A gift should be certain to please and should therefore reflect the recipient’s personal likes and dislikes, stated William Hanson, a leading British etiquette and protocol expert.

2. Avoid giving a present for the home unless you know the recipient extremely well, as there is a strong chance of misjudging their taste. Flowers are the exception.

3. Chocolates are the most tasteful choice for someone one does not know well, according to Mr Hanson.

4. When presenting a gift to someone from another country, be sure to consider all the cultural codes so as not to offend.

5. Not being ostentatious is the key to tasteful gifting, asserted Mr Hanson. It is not tasteful to give someone a very expensive bottle of champagne if they cannot reciprocate, for example.

6. Keep a list of all the gifts you give each year to avoid repetitions in the future.

7. A gift should be beautifully wrapped, offering a sensorial prelude to the precious indulgence nestled within. An unwrapped gift, or one offered in a gift bag, denotes a marked lack of refinement, said Mr Hanson.

8. Choose the right moment to present your gift so that the recipient has sufficient time to gracefully receive it.

9. When presenting a gift, the most tasteful thing to say is what comes from the heart, stated Mr Hanson.

10. Respond with graciousness when thanked. Do not diminish the gift you have presented.

Gifts, The art of gifting, William Hanson, Holiday season

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Rejuvenation at Night

Night time is the skin’s ideal moment for rejuvenation
18 Jan 2018

Night-time offers the precious gift of sleep, a vital sanctuary from the rigours of life that enables the body and mind to maintain a poetic balance.

But while the body rests, the very cells where beauty is born engage in an extraordinary process of rejuvenation.

“In the skin, many molecular, cellular and physiological processes follow a circadian rhythm, some of them peaking at night,” stated Dr Jacqueline Hill, Director of Strategic Innovation and Science at La Prairie.

Transepidermal water loss — moisture lost through the skin — is higher at night, as are blood flow and skin temperature. On a cellular level, epidermal stem cell proliferation rises, which leads to increased skin renewal. Specific repair mechanisms, such as DNA repair, are also active mainly at night.

“The abundance of replenishment that takes place while the body is at rest makes the night the perfect time for renewal,” asserted Dr Hill. There is also a dramatic decrease of exposure to environmental aggressors, which allows an increased focus on repair as opposed to defence. 

While the skin is more prone to becoming dehydrated at night, it is also more apt to absorb treatments applied during this timeframe. A bedtime ritual using sumptuous ingredients to nourish the skin is therefore vital to support nocturnal rejuvenation.

 The first step to holding back time is to gently cleanse the skin, as retiring to bed with make-up or traces of dirt and pollution on the skin can lead to clogged pores and inflammation. By purifying the skin, the effects of daily exposure to pollutants are minimised before damage can take place.

Night-time hydration plays a crucial role in keeping skin healthy, radiant and youthful. So after cleansing and toning, products enriched with active ingredients that enhance the skin’s natural moisture levels, and strengthen its barrier, should be applied.

These should include anti-aging treatments that target personal skincare concerns – such as fine lines, excess pigmentation or lack of radiance.

So, when night falls, remember to lavish the skin with enriched ingredients to enhance the magical process of rejuvenation. For it is these starlit hours that are the key to a world of beauty with no temporal limits.

Skin Rejuvenation, Platinum, Skincare, Active Ingredients, Anti-Aging

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Eyes in Focus

Depicting the Beauty of the Feminine Gaze.
18 Jul 2019

From Ancient Egyptian kohl to Greco-Roman sculpture and Old Master portraits, woman’s unwavering gaze has remained timeless. No matter the medium or the context, it penetrates. Two eyes or one, unmasked or veiled in secrecy, the sweeping understanding of its power and luminescence remains indisputable across cultures in art.

SHADOW: THE EYE UNMASKED

Although Egyptians and Romans proved the power of the gaze, it was later paintings, and photography, that were particularly captivating. For example, Study for an Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), features a fair-skinned figure, turned towards the viewer. Set against a dark background, her form glows in a near-unearthly pallor in stark contrast to the shadow.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 - 1867): Study For An Odalisque. Photo: ©Album/Scala, Florence.

Ingres was a Neoclassicist, an artistic period defined by a return to detail and discovery. As such, the Odalisque was a recurrent motif of the period. Supple, fair-skinned forms were exposed in the nude. But despite the full exposure, the example is still mysterious—her gaze remains uncertain, cast off into the distance.

It bears strong reference to a photograph of Countess de Castiglione, dated to the 1860s. This was just around the time of Ingres’ death, since Pierre-Louis Pierson was active during a similar period, opening his studio in the 1840s. 

Pierre-Louis Pierson (1822 - 1913): Countess de Castiglione Holding Vignette Frame up to her eye, 1861-67, printed ca. 1930. Photo: ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence.

The countess’ composition is similar, as turns her face to the right with shoulders exposed. She too bares just a single eye, but this time the shadow comes not from the foreground. Instead, the countess holds a vignette frame to her eye, acting as a carefully concealing mask. The shape of the oval around her eye is quite similar to the rounded shape of Ingres’ beauty’s backdrop, but the woman gains control, all-seeing while the viewer cannot quite devour her form with their own eyes.

The biggest difference was the daguerreotype, named after its inventor Louis Daguerre. Earliest common form of photography, the daguerreotype technique changed the way the world was rendered—it was a far cry from the old world-style of meticulous painting and realism, instead Pierre-Louis Pierson was looking closely at the world around him with characterisation, allowing the camera to capture the eyes. With photography, one had space in the gaze to see a soul.

LIGHT: EYES SET FREE

Going back beyond the Neoclassicists to the masters themselves, the most captivating gazes have always been created by Leonardo da Vinci. His women gaze with both self-assurance and uncertainty, determined direction but side-cast hesitation. La belle ferronnière proves a striking example: even the woman herself is unknown, with only her dark eyes left to time. She is resplendent, in a glorious red robe, but her flawless complexion and dark gaze endure. Her world, old and dark, was brought to life with Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful depiction.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): La belle ferronnière, Paris, musée du Louvre. Photo: ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado.

And yet, centuries later, it was Paul Klee who deconstructed the gaze most powerfully, with bare shoulders, with his Open-Eyes Group painting. The gaze is alarmingly, jarringly revealing—a far cry from the sidelong glances of comely maidens. Skin and eyes dance across the canvas with little regard for composition or colour scheme. 

The contemporary art of Paul Klee’s historical moment stripped away the shadow and depth of the Old Masters and photographers, desperately trying to capture the so-called real world. Instead, the figures practically float and jut, striking black and white eyes breaking with tradition. The result is refreshingly stripped away. Gone are the women concealed. They are free to stare and embrace their own majestic purity and sensuality, powerfully rendered with line and shape alone.

Paul Klee (1879-1940): Open-Eyed Group, 1938. Christie's Images Limited. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.

DISARMAMENT: THE CONTEMPORARY GAZE OF THE 20TH CENTURY

From antiquity to the 20th century, a gaze disarms and charms, ignites and delights. These paintings are most powerfully preserved in time, deeply etched in the memories of those who catch the eyes of the subject. Though we will never fully capture the wonder of these enigmatic stares and the beauties they belonged to, we can admire them in spurts of magic. In that way, they last forever.

Eyes, Art, Gaze, Focus

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Swiss Science: A Passion for Knowledge

How a Swiss scientist is unlocking the secrets of the universe.
4 Oct 2017

Deep within one of the world's biggest and most respected centres for scientific research, particle physicist Alison Lister is on a quest to unlock the secrets of the universe.

Her audacious endeavours take place at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva. The legendary Swiss laboratory is home to the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles of life.

It was at CERN that the World Wide Web was invented in 1989, and the long-sought Higgs boson subatomic particle was discovered in 2012, hailed as one of the greatest triumphs of science.

“We were all part of the discovery,” asserted Alison. “I think the actual triumph was a combination of the great physicists who thought of the idea of the Higgs mechanism and the cumulative efforts over many years to find it.”

Alison believes that Switzerland’s fortuitous location at the crossroads of Europe, along with its exceptional quality of life, are behind the country’s long and noble tradition of being at the forefront of science and innovation. CERN has always explored the world not only through science but through art — a vision shared with La Prairie.

Arts at CERN, its leading art and science programme, promotes an inspired dialogue between artists and particle physicists, both of whom examine existence and what it is to be human.

“Art has always mattered and always will,” Alison stated. “It’s a way of expressing life, emotions — even science — in ways which transcend words.”

Born in Switzerland to two CERN physicists, Alison works on the 7,000-tonne ATLAS detector which probes the fundamental particles.

The detector is at the awe-inspiring Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, which forms a 27 kilometre-long underground ring.

Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies. The beams are made to collide with each other, or stationary targets, while detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

“There’s still 95 percent of the universe yet to be discovered,” Alison declared. “Dark matter, for example, is something we know is out there, but until we can produce it in the lab, or detect it somehow on earth, we won’t know what it’s made of. It’s a really amazing time to be alive.”

As a poetic balance to her groundbreaking scientific research, Alison spends much of her down time immersed in the timeless beauty of the magnificent Swiss Alps. While hiking or skiing these natural wonders, she enters a rarified world where time stands still. These quiet moments, encased in pristine Swissness, nurture her soul, giving her the inspiration to continue solving the enigmas of the universe.

CERN, Higgs boson, Large Hadron Collider, Science, Alison Lister

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THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-REJUVENATION

The fusion of savoir-faire values with exceptional skincare benefits defines the very essence of haute-rejuvenation.
23 Jan 2019

Haute-couture, haute-horlogerie, haute-joaillerie – those métiers that elevate craftsmanship to a high art – exist in a world apart, one which revolves around the stellar constellation of daring creativity, masterful savoir-faire, the most exquisite materials and an exclusive encounter with the extraordinary. 

In the creation of its skincare, La Prairie applies the same principles as those of maisons, from the painstaking selection of its raw, precious ingredients to the expert formulation of its products and the sublime design of its vessels. Perhaps the La Prairie collection most exemplary of these values of artisanry, the Platinum Rare Collection offers a splendid experience synonymous with pleasure, with a dream spun out of desire – just like the most decadent creations of a true luxury house. 

The Platinum Rare Collection
The Platinum Rare Collection

The fusion of luxury savoir-faire values with exceptional skincare benefits defines the very essence of haute-rejuvenation – La Prairie’s high art of reigniting a youthful appearance. Through this philosophy, the Platinum Rare Collection redefines rejuvenation as we know it. Haute-rejuvenation not only embodies the traditions of savoir-faire unique to La Prairie – audacious innovation, bespoke craftsmanship, the use of the most precious, rare ingredients and a refined, enchanting experience – it propels them to the next level.

The Platinum Rare haute-rejuvenation experience starts with the latest innovation to come from the Swiss laboratories of La Prairie: Platinum Rare Celluar Life-Lotion. A new beginning for your skin, it offers an unparalleled formulation drawn from the source of life. Inspired by the eternal beauty and strength of platinum, it is where haute-rejuvenation begins.

Platinum Rare Cellular-Life Lotion

“THE ONLY METAL FIT FOR KINGS”

Louis XVI of France declared that platinum, with its subtle sheen and sophisticated colour, was to be the only metal used at Versailles to decorate the tables and coiffeuses of the court. Ever since, platinum, brilliant and refined, has been the ultimate emblem of exclusivity. It is this very exclusivity – this rarity – that has made of it the chosen symbol to convey the pinnacle of excellence. It is the ultimate choice to express taste, elegance and grace.

The scientists at La Prairie, however, have discovered that its beauty goes beyond its inspiring appearance. A powerful enhancer of rejuvenating peptides, it rests at the heart of every Platinum Rare product, selected like a raw gem to be transformed in the hands of the expert artisan. 

 

THE ORIGIN OF REJUVENATION LIES WITHIN

Like the other products of the collection, Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion is infused with the eternity of platinum. The result of years of research – the time required to create a true piece of haute-artisanry – it offers the essential first step in the Platinum Rare haute-rejuvenation skincare ritual. Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion is a complete essence-in-lotion that helps to boost the skin’s rejuvenated appearance by supporting key cellular detoxification processes – for skin that is detoxified, renewed, reset: optimally prepared to benefit from the rejuvenating treatments that follow. 


EXQUISITE DESIGN

Like all the products in the Platinum Rare Collection, the design of the Cellular Life-Lotion decanter conveys a fastidious attention to detail, echoing the values of haute-artisanry. Conceived in deep amethyst tones, each line of the tall, sleek vessel angles into another. Every surface, every facet of the cap is hewn to catch the light in an unexpected and surprising way, like an expertly cut gem. Sculpted with careful attention to symmetry, visual equilibrium and harmony, it reflects the haute-rejuvenation contained within.

Platinum Rare Cellular-Life Lotion

 

Platinum, Rejuvenation, Skincare, Haute

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An Artistic Dialogue

A COLLABORATION WITH SWISS ARTIST MANON WERTENBROEK, IN DIALOGUE WITH NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE.
1 Aug 2018

MANON WERTENBROEK X NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE

La Prairie celebrates the lasting influence of Niki de Saint Phalle’s work through a collaboration with Swiss artist Manon Wertenbroek, resulting in the creation of a series of exclusive artworks.

Ms Wertenbroek has created works for La Prairie that pay tribute to indulgence, aesthetics and technological, cutting-edge techniques. All three pieces pay homage to cobalt blue, a colour omnipresent throughout the body of work of Niki de Saint Phalle, another avant-garde female artist with Swiss ties and a key artistic influence for La Prairie.

Engendering a dialogue between the works of these two pioneering artists, an installation featuring Ms Wertenbroek’s three works is presented alongside Niki de Saint Phalle’s iconic Pouf serpent bleu at the 2018 edition of Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland.

THREE EXCLUSIVE WORKS OF ART ON SCIENCE, AESTHETICS AND INDULGENCE

In "Mirrors", Ms Wertenbroek explores the infinite relationship between two reflective surfaces rising to the eye. The reciprocity is further enhanced as a pair of faces and hands that denote an exchange of ideas and knowledge.

In "Blue Portrait", an empty, undrawn face of another confronts us, forcing us to create our own image. A second look reveals that the blue of the figure's hair splits and fragments, appearing on competing planes. As with any social interaction, closer scrutiny leads to an ever-multiplying chain of reflections. The technology used to create this effect speaks to Ms Wertenbroek's adherence to pure, precise elements of design.

In "Window Glimpse", deeply traced lines recall the parallel frames of so many lined-up windows. The organic, hand-drawn forms of flowers soften this hard angularity, recalling the stolen glimpses we have of ourselves as we catch our reflection in a shop window, hoping no one notices the momentary indulgence.

NIKI DE SAINT PHALLE AND LA PRAIRIE

A groundbreaking 20th century Contemporary artist, Niki de Saint Phalle is a key artistic inspiration for La Prairie; her striking use of cobalt blue throughout her work is the inspiration for the rich, translucent cobalt blue vessels of the La Prairie Skin Caviar Collection.

The origin of this inspiration is a story of serendipity. It the early 1980s, the La Prairie creative team shared offices with the fragrance house producing Ms de Saint Phalle’s namesake scent. In observing Ms de Saint Phalle’s work on her fragrance bottles, they had an epiphany: her signature cobalt blue, the colour of opulence, of royalty, of serenity, was precisely the colour needed to express the indulgence of what would become La Prairie’s icon. In collaboration with Ms de Saint Phalle and her fragrance team, they chose this sublime, rich hue for the very first Skin Caviar jar.

Manon Wertenbroek, Niki de Saint Phalle, Art Basel, Art

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Infusion of Light

27 Mar 2017

 

On the occasion of the launch of White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion, La Prairie has selected works by six Swiss artists that interpret the topic of light. Entitled “Infusion of Light”, the digital takeover featuring daily posts will run on the @laprairie Instagram account from Monday March 27, 2017 to Sunday, April 2, 2017 inclusive.

For the duration of the week, the @laprairie account will be transformed into a temporary digital exhibition. Each post will feature one piece of art accompanied by a short description and artist bio, along with a video of the artist speaking about the use of light in his or her work.

The focus on Swiss artists is a conscious choice rooted in La Prairie’s Swiss heritage. The artistic collaboration is in keeping with the Brand’s enhanced relationship with the world of contemporary art.

The artists:

Jacques-Aurélien Brun, born 1992 in Lausanne. Lives and works in Lausanne.

After Anna, 2015

Christian Herdeg, born 1942 in Zurich. Lives and works in Zurich.

Magic Circle meets Square, 2012

Fluo acryl color, blacklight tubes

152 x 152 x 7 cm

huber.huber, Reto and Markus Huber, born 1975 in Münsterlingen. Live and work in Zurich.

Umkristallisationen, 2013

Collage: book clippings, varnish, on cardboard

A4, A3, A2

Zilla Leutenegger, born 1968 in Zurich. Lives and works in Zurich.

Lucellino (small light), 2006.

Video installation with drawing on paper.

19th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, 2014

 

Ugo Rondinone, born 1964 in Brunnen. Lives and works in New York.

Everyone Gets Lighter, 2004

Sculpture, neon, perspex, translucent foil and aluminum

414 x 950 x 15.2 cm

Manon Wertenbroek, Swiss/Dutch artist, born 1991 in Lausanne, grew up in Switzerland. Lives and works in Paris.

I saw you smile yesterday, 2017

To discover more about the illuminating work of these groundbreaking Swiss artists, please visit the La Prairie Instagram account. Click here

 

Art, Light, Liquid Light, Christian Herdeg, Jacques-Aurélien Brun, Manon Wertenbroek Post, Zilla Leutenegger, huber.huber, Ugo Rondinone, White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion

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Rituals of Extraordinary Performers

16 Mar 2017

In an often frenetic world, rituals offer a sacred moment of calm and quiet. They are about indulgence – luxuriating in a moment for oneself, taking time to enjoy little pleasures – but they are also about taking care of oneself and restoring vital energy and focus.

For many artists, rituals are an essential part of their performance. Whether their habits help calm the mind or give a boost of confidence before taking the stage, performers often observe unique, deeply personal pre-stage routines. La Prairie sat down with two seasoned musicians to discuss the art of ritual and why it plays an important role in their craft.

Photo: courtesy of the artist; © Marco Caselli Nirmal

ETIENNE ABELIN |Basel | etienneabelin.com

A pioneering violinist and conductor, Etienne Abelin is reinvigorating classical music. Born in Bern and currently based in Basel, the Swiss star started playing the violin when he was just four years old and began conducting in 2011. His audacious ensemble project, bachSpace, is an innovative interpretation of classic music – the trio combines works by J.S. Bach with electronic compositions and remixes.

Etienne is electric on stage, putting extraordinary passion into every piece he plays or conducts. “All performances are different, so the mix of emotions is always different,” he says. “The goal is to get physically and mentally ready to be fully there, right from the first moment on stage.”

Etienne’s preparation for the stage happens long before he steps onto it. In addition to reviewing each piece of music mentally and visually in fast tempo, Etienne connects with his body through stretches and then with the other musicians through conversation. He believes it helps him get into an improvisational space.    

Evoking this sense of both formula and fluidity is essential to his music. “I try to be as well prepared as I can without getting stuck and overly perfectionist,” he says. “A performance is like a living and breathing animal, it must be spontaneous and perfectionism is detrimental to that.”

Photo: courtesy of the artist

DEANNA BADIZADEGAN | San Francisco | deannabadizadegan.com

Originally from Massachusetts, this San Francisco-based violist started playing at the age of four and has been performing around the world ever since, from castles in Luxembourg to Carnegie Hall in New York. Now 24, Deanna seeks out performance opportunities that emphasise the joy, human connection and creativity that are the hallmarks of great artistry and shared experiences.

“My absolute favourite part of playing music is to be able to connect with people around me – both the other musicians and the audience – in a meaningful way,” she says. “There’s a special feeling that you get when you start playing and sense the whole room is listening.”

Part of that connection is preparation, she says.

Deanna has several rituals she has adopted over the years to get in the right mental space for the stage. “I like to do some deep breathing right before I go on stage, which helps quiet my mind so I can stay focused on the music while I’m performing.” And if there is enough time, she tries to attend a Yoga class. “It puts me in the perfect zone,” she says. The violist says anticipation for a performance builds over a few days and that small rituals help focus her excited energy and anticipation into concentration.

To integrate a ritual into one’s own day-to-day routine, it is best to focus on a particular moment or context in which distractions can be kept to a minimum. Favour rituals that help calm the spirit, provide a sense of pleasure and well-being and give back time.

Rituals, Indulgence, Etienne Abelin, Deanna Badizadegan, Luxury, Performers, Perfection, Art

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One Hundred Years of Bauhaus

A Century of Timelessness.
12 Apr 2019

Few artistic movements have made an impact quite like that of Bauhaus. Indeed, the word itself has become a noun, an adjective, and a household name; the mention of Bauhaus immediately conjures up images of tower blocks and typefaces, of bold architectural aesthetics and pared-back furnishings, and a remarkably wide array of design features in possession of the unmistakable Bauhaus idiom. The artists who studied Bauhaus, most notably the founding father of modern art, Wassily Kandinsky, went on to reimagine painting for a new age and create entirely new visual languages with which to reshape culture as we know it. Celebrated Bauhaus architects, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, would spread their influence as far as Chandigarh in India, Chicago, Tel Aviv, and beyond, and traces of Bauhaus style can be seen everywhere from flat-pack furniture to the minimalist aesthetic of today’s smartphones. This movement, this school of thought as much as design, became the typeface in which the future was written.

Founded in the German Weimar Republic (1913 - 1933), Bauhaus served to break down the barriers between artistry and craftsmanship, with its sights set on a utopian aim of forging a new industry-spanning aesthetic. Driven by experimentation and collaboration, and bolstered by enduring results and a broad spectrum of opinions and reactions, it set the pattern for the rest of the 20th century and today. Now in its centenary year, and after decades which saw Bauhaus equally scorned and celebrated, misunderstood, cast out, and finally adopted wholeheartedly by the mainstream, its adorers and critics alike are able to cast their eye over a century of influence and innovation. Behind Bauhaus' elegant and simplistic lines, and beneath its stark white exterior, we can uncover a true sense of timelessness which has informed the way we live.

Inception: From the Jugendstil to the Bauhaus

Despite its boldness and insistence on an entirely new order, a clear lineage and heritage which led to Bauhaus’ foundation can be traced. Walter Gropius, the Prussian architect behind the creation of the Bauhaus, was insistent on the Bauhaus approach being based on an equal value given to technical knowledge and artistic ability, an approach previously seen in the Jugendstil movement, and the English Arts and Crafts a few decades prior. The Jugendstil, with its youthful approach and the value it placed in high art being used for practical purposes embodied several significant aspects of what would become core tenets of the Bauhaus. Jugendstil artists were known for, among other things, using their collaborative talents to produce everything from architectural designs to stage sets, and from advertisements to more traditional canvases.

Another key movement which formed the bedrock on which the Bauhaus was built was the Wiener Werkstatte. Co-founder Josef Hoffmann, the Austrian ceramicist best known for his iconic monochromatic homewares and eccentric chair designs, demonstrated how the lines are drawn between high art, consumer goods, and industrial design were not as unwavering as was once supposed. One could, if one was on the hunt for the Bauhaus heritage, easily cite his talent and vision as being instrumental in the creation of both the Bauhaus approach and aesthetic in equal measures.

Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.
Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.

Construction: Crossover Aesthetics and Enduring Powers

The creation of the Bauhaus as a physical space—and not merely an approach, concept, or aesthetic—was borne of collaboration and the result of a municipal project spearheaded by Gropius in conjunction with the state.The city of Dessau commissioned and supplied the plot of land for the school - the prospect of a new direction, a home-grown design idiom, and a new centre of artistic and technical excellence was clearly more than the local officials could resist.

Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.
Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.

The school’s original aims were to completely break down the boundaries between all artistic disciplines, and to erode the very systems of thought which separate high art from ‘craft’. Gropius’ founding proclamation was that of “a new building of the future, that will unite every discipline, and which would rise to heaven from the hands of a million workers, as a crystallised symbol of a new faith”. His was a concept of the crossover, taken to previously unimagined levels. The Hungarian artist and photographer Moholy-Nagy is a powerful example to consider. As one of the Bauhaus’s most celebrated associates, his work seamlessly blends technical brilliance with unhindered and liberated camerawork, traditional sculpture, and conceptual art in ways which were entirely new.

Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.
Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.

While the success of Gropius’ vision is perhaps best known through the modernist architectural idiom borne of Bauhaus design, the artistic heritage of the short-lived school can be found everywhere we look. Indeed, the bold use of line and colour, that unmistakably Bauhaus approach associated with artists and printmakers such as Oskar Schlemmer can be seen at supermarkets, on book covers and grocery packaging, in-car designs, luxury brands, road signs, kitchenware… the list of places in which the Bauhaus spirit of collaboration and the fundamentals of its aesthetic can be found goes on and on.

Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.
Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.

Deconstruction: Breaking Down Barriers in Art and Beyond

Bauhaus was always driven by the belief that in order for artistic ability to flourish, technical excellence must always be at its heart. While this belief was certainly vindicated with evidence of such surrounding us at every turn, the original school had its life cut short by the rise of National Socialism in 1930s Germany. World War II may have changed the direction of the Bauhaus ideology, but its value lost none of its value or ability to appeal, influence, and divide opinion. As the 20th century continued, artistic aesthetics and architectural design became increasingly visibly reminiscent of and inspired by the works which the Bauhaus had launched upon the public consciousness, and this trend seemingly lost none of its paces as the 20th century ended and the 21st began.

Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.
Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.

Perhaps one of the key catalysts of the timeless appeal of the Bauhaus was its becoming a global phenomenon, rather than a European-based approach to art and design. It is almost ironic that attempts to suppress the creative visions of the Bauhaus in 1930s Germany may have led to it becoming the worldwide tour de force we know it as today. Indeed, the latter half of the 1930s saw the vast majority of the original Bauhaus representatives emigrate to the United States, disillusioned by the backwards-looking artistic culture of Germany at the time. It took almost no time at all for their genius to be recognised by artistic communities of New York, and in 1938, the MoMA launched a full Bauhaus exhibition, thus cementing its position as the modernist global movement in art, architecture, and design.

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (1886-1969): New National Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 1968. Interior view of main entry area. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect. ©2019. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. 

Bauhaus: Shaping the World and Forming the Future

One hundred years on from the founding of perhaps the most influential artistic movement of the 20th century, how are we able to see Bauhaus from a holistic perspective, and with the benefit of hindsight? Undoubtedly, the school and its output created outrage among conservative society at the time.

However, at the end of a century of Bauhaus, we can see that the Bauhaus movement and school was not, as was often claimed, a threat the elegance of its predecessors. Nor is it the manifestation of one small group’s vision of modernism. Bauhaus was, is, and continues to be associated with an abundance of creative energies, true courage in conviction, and a movement which valued technical learnable skills as much as it did raw artistic talent. In these senses and more, it has managed to touch every aspect of commercial production and cultural life, and has made its mark on the artistic movements which followed, a variety of industries, and across almost every country on earth. From the smartphones in our pockets, to the art on our walls and the homes and cities in which we reside, we all live in a Bauhaus-inspired world.

Bauhaus, Anniversary, Design, Architecture

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Structuring Landscapes

Mountains, Lakes, and The Buildings Between: Nature and Architecture Synchrony in Switzerland.
5 Aug 2019

The architecture of Switzerland has historically been a melange of idioms borrowed from the Baroque, the Classical, and beyond, suggesting a nation which has struggled to find its voice via its buildings. This trend swung radically in the opposite direction at the end of the 19th century, with bold home-grown architectural movements such as The Heimatstil sowing the seeds of a distinctly Swiss form of Modernism.

The iconic Le Corbusier brought modern Swiss architecture to the world, his fantasies in concrete and glass providing a powerful counterpoint to that which had always been Switzerland’s unending glory: the vast lakes, snaking rivers, and towering Alps. His proteges that followed bridged the gap between the often brutal and harsh lines of the internationally-minded Modernists, who saw themselves in direct opposition with the random flow of natural forms, and the eco-conscious and proudly Swiss architects produced in the 21st century.

Such contrast has been the driving force behind what has become one of the most forward-thinking architectural identities in the world. Today, the modern and the classical sit side by side, and the practical is taken on flights of pure fancy. 21st century Swiss architects bring Swiss building design back to the land, marrying the wilderness with new zeniths of style, and gleefully embracing the challenges posed by the drama and inaccessibility of the landscape. In doing so, they have carved pathways with which to see the country anew.

WILDERNESS TAMED: MARIO BOTTA’S MASTERWORKS

If the architecture of mid 20th century Switzerland was characterised by those who saw themselves as authors writing sequels to Le Corbusier’s concrete poetry, then Mario Botta was the iconoclast, ripping up pages and penning them anew.

For Botta, who was the featured artist at the La Prairie pavilion at the 2018 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach, the Swiss landscape is an obstacle to be surmounted, and a canvas on which to project fantasies which provide stark contrast and glorious harmony side by side. Throughout his highly-lauded career, he has demonstrated vision and mastery over inhospitable and inaccessible locations, opening them up in a celebration of manpower, design, and appreciation of Switzerland’s most beautiful vistas.

The Fiore Di Pietra by architect Mario Botta, lodged against the sharp contours of the Alps. Photo credit ©Enrico Cano
The Fiore Di Pietra by architect Mario Botta, lodged against the sharp contours of the Alps. Photo credit ©Enrico Cano

A recently completed project, the Fiore di Pietra restaurant, is a man-made blossom perched perilously upon a mountain pass. With its obtuse angles and sharp lines, it’s an unmistakable product of 21st century Swiss architecture and engineering. However, thanks to a form inspired by the most basic shapes of nature, that playful sense of contrast and cohesion remains breathtakingly intact.

While Botta’s buildings are unmistakably modernist, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they eschew the slick, sleek, and seamless lines of many of his contemporaries. By favouring masonry over glass and steel, his works have an elemental quality. No matter how vividly creations such as Fiore di Pietra may seem to contrast against the white snow or glacial ice, there is invariably a sense of the mountain, of the river, and of the quarry in Botta’s creations, and in this, an inescapable sense of the Swiss, as well.

BROAD HORIZONS AND NEW GENERATIONS

Thanks to the groundwork completed by the aforementioned giants of Modernist and Post-Modernist Swiss architecture, there has been no shortage of fertile soil in which a new generation of designers and visionaries has been able to take root. Taking the ideas of Botta and his forebears, and leading them to new heights of creativity and new frontiers of architecture as national identity, Switzerland’s latest rush of architects and design houses have entered an era of unrivaled innovation.

The latest generation of Swiss architects are more committed than ever before to showcase new technologies and demonstrate how these allow them to work side by side with nature and the landscape of their country. The sense of place and space that is so essential to Botta’s work has today reached its logical conclusions, as we can see in constructions such as AFGH Architekten’s Lake Rotsee Refuge. This unique and eye-catching design shows how the practical need not be free from imagination. Indeed, the angular, cubic form manages to condense the essence of the forest, the lake, and the tranquility of the space into a building which promises the practicalities of a refuge, while highlighting the mastery of its design and realisation against the elements.

AFGH Architekten’s Lake Rotsee Refuge. Architects: Andreas Fuhrimann, Gabrielle Hächler. Photo credit © Valentin Jeck
AFGH Architekten’s Lake Rotsee Refuge. Architects: Andreas Fuhrimann, Gabrielle Hächler. Photo credit © Valentin Jeck

GREENER APPROACHES FOR UNIQUE LOCATIONS

In a country where the sheer magnificence of the countryside is never more than a stone’s throw from even the busiest metropolitan centre, the preservation of the natural world is, as it should be, ever-present on the minds of Switzerland’s designers. Indeed, there is an increasing sense of ecological responsibility among contemporary Swiss architects, which has resulted in some of the most impressive buildings being revealed in recent years.

Take the Sustainable Cabin by Studio Monte Rosa, which plays with the idea of using natural materials with postmodern approaches, and which teasingly takes the concept of blending into and harmonising with the landscape to new extremes. The ecological concept of ‘leaving no trace’ may not be completely possible when it comes to architecture and building, but this cabin, over which the eye passes seamlessly as it reflects and complements its breathtaking backdrop, is about as traceless as a structure can be. With its innovative use of natural materials and forward-thinking renewable energy solutions, the Sustainable Cabin demonstrates how a mountain cabin has the scope to become a groundbreaking structure, while further heightening the enjoyment, accessibility, and preservation of its location.

The Sustainable Cabin, by ETH-Studio Monte Rosa. Photo credit ©Tonatiuh Ambrosetti, 2009.
The Sustainable Cabin, by ETH-Studio Monte Rosa. Photo credit ©Tonatiuh Ambrosetti, 2009.

While the architecture of the past belonged almost exclusively to the grandiosity of the urban environment, the natural habitat of 21st century Swiss architecture is by no means that of the city. From playful yet functional mountaineer’s huts, to state-of-the-art spa complexes and leisure facilities in the countryside, the synergy between the natural world and that of the architectural imagination has never been so vibrant, or such a signifier of national identity. Echoing back against the natural majesty of Switzerland’s mountains, lakes, forests, and rivers, the voice of Swiss architecture sounds clearer than ever.

Architecture, Landscapes, Switzerland, Design

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INSIDE THE AUDACIOUS INTERIOR DESIGN OF LA PRAIRIE’S NEW STORE CONCEPT

LA PRAIRIE’S SUBLIME NEW STORE DESIGN OFFERS A RESPITE FROM EVERYDAY LIFE.
5 Jun 2018

The spaces we inhabit are important; they impact our state-of-mind, our outlook, our attitude. In today’s busy world, calm and welcoming spaces can act as a soothing balm, instilling in us a sense of serenity.

This important insight has been fused into La Prairie’s new store design. With a nod to the luxury skincare brand’s Swiss heritage, the design incorporates the clean, pure aesthetic of Swiss Contemporary Architecture, creating beautiful environments in which to pause, peruse and feel pampered.

These elements have been actualised through the use of precious, natural materials and details which reflect the brand’s Swissness. Fine crystal, sleek steel and delicate paper have been used to craft sculptures placed throughout the stores and offer a clear vision of  an uncompromised unity with the natural world.

“When we speak about Swissness, we speak about the expression of the landscape, perfection and precision, a level of luxury, refined manners and kindness,” said Stana Pijunovic, the Chief Architect of La Prairie, who was responsible for overseeing the new designs from concept to execution.

To illustrate the snow and minerality that dusts Switzerland’s mountains, La Prairie has worked with leading craftspeople to create sculptures fashioned from the whitest stone. The varying shapes of the stone pieces – some are circular while others are angular – create a tension between smoothness and roughness. Some pieces are integrated into the wall, others rest on table tops, further highlighting the tension. All are cut with precision – a metaphor for the nature of Swissness: a mix of the raw and the refined.

This three-dimensional artistic interpretation draws on the philosophy behind the school of Land Art, which takes materials from the natural world and reimagines them into pieces of art, using the land itself to form dazzling objects.

Another example of the Land Art inspiration evident in the new boutiques is a chrome and metal sculpture that represents the brilliant light that reflects off Lake Geneva. In addition to these artistic inspirations, the design of the space takes visual cues from the pure, minimal lines of contemporary Swiss architects such as Peter Zumthor.

 

As an interpretation of La Prairie’s precious ingredients, some of the stores’ sculptures are intended to represent the multi-faceted beauty of platinum or the audaciousness of caviar.

Of course, every care has been taken to create not only a beautiful environment, but also a sublime client experience in the stores. A sense of discretion is achieved through sheets of frosted glass that divide the space into consultation and treatment areas.

The intent behind this careful thought is to provide a sanctuary, hewed from wood, glass and stone: a nature-centric alternative to the harsh lighting and overwhelming bustle of most shop floors.

“Time is the most luxurious thing that we have,” Ms Pijunovic mused.

“Taking a few moments to be immersed in a calm environment can contribute enormously to our wellbeing.  After all, we are influenced by the beauty of the space that surrounds us.”

Architecture, Store, Design, Switzerland

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Majestic Matterhorn: Behind the Lens

28 Jul 2017

A symbol of eternity and audacious beauty, the Matterhorn is the iconic image of Switzerland — one that represents La Prairie.

Such is the mountain’s breathtaking allure, it has been an inspiration to countless artists for centuries. John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic and social commentator, declared it “the most noble cliff in Europe”. He not only painted the Matterhorn, he also took the first photograph of it in 1849.

The majestic mountain continues to captivate artists and audiences today.

Nenad Saljic’s haunting black-and-white photographs of the mountain have earned him two National Geographic Awards, and resulted in the honour of being named Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year at the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.

Nenad, who was born in Croatia, became enraptured with mountaineering on a school hiking trip when he was only 12 years old. Seven years later, he climbed Mont Blanc. But it wasn’t until his 40s that Nenad first set eyes on the bewitching Matterhorn Mountain.

“That was love at first sight,” admitted Nenad, who now lives in Zermatt, which boasts arresting views of the mountain. In 2009, he first began photographing the Matterhorn, a project that lasted several years until 2015.

The fulfilling endeavour resulted in several thousand portraits and his book "Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain." It features 43 black-and-white duotone photographs accompanied by a timeline of the most significant events in the Matterhorn’s history.

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

“There are several aspects of the Matterhorn that have attracted me,” Nenad pronounced. “Artistically, it is one of the world’s most magnificent mountains – with its pyramidal shape and solitary position it could be considered an ideal mountain. The Matterhorn even produces its own banner clouds due to the special atmospheric conditions.” 

Nenad is also attracted to its rich history. The Matterhorn had long been deemed inaccessible, and it remained unclimbed long after most of the other great Alpine peaks had been reached. Edward Whymper finally conquered the mountain in 1865, marking the end of the golden age of Alpinism.

“The triumph and tragedy of this feat marks the epitome of our human desire to explore and venture beyond our limitations, simultaneously reminding us of how great and how small we are,” asserted Nenad. “The Matterhorn is a product of geological processes that transcend human beings and our concept of time.”

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

A trained mountaineer and caver, he has never climbed a mountain that has had such a pull on him. “I think there is a Buddhist saying that the best view of a mountain is not from the top, because once you are on the summit you cannot see the mountain itself. This is a nice philosophical excuse, at least,” he stated.

Eternally captivated, Nenad finds that time gradually slows down when he is working, and eventually seems to stop entirely.

Matterhorn, Switzerland, Photography, Artist, Nenad Saljic, Art, Portrait of a Mountain

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Three Types of Wrinkles and What Causes them

22 Mar 2017

The formation of wrinkles – the crepe-like crosshatch lines under the eye, crow’s feet, frown lines and creases around the mouth – are a result of various biological, hereditary and behavioural influences. And while some lines add character, others might appear earlier than expected or seem too severe, robbing the face of its vitality.

Not all wrinkles are created equal, however. To choose the wrinkle-fighting products best suited for individual needs and concerns, it is essential to first understand the different types of wrinkles and what causes them. Here, the three most common types and how to combat them – the starting line for a lineless future.  

AGE AND GRAVITY

Research shows that cells divide more slowly as you age, causing the inner layer of skin to thin and become prone to damage and folding. Skin also begins to lose its elasticity. This loss of resilience and bounce results in lines and creases, particularly around the eyes, along the fold that runs from the nose to the corners of the mouth and along the jawline and neck. Over time, the downward pull of gravity accentuates these issues, allowing lines to settle in. Products that work to support the skin’s natural renewal process by promoting the production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid can help combat the impact of gravity on the skin.

EXPRESSION LINES

Skin has a memory. Its cells track each smile, squint and frown, and with these habitual facial movements, expression lines begin to form. When facial muscular movements are repeated systematically, these lines become permanent and deepen with time. One way of guarding against expression lines is to impede facial muscle movement, but that requires dermatological procedures in a specialist’s office. Another effective way is to look for products that contain peptides that help to inhibit the signalling pathways of facial muscles, relaxing the surface of the skin and smoothing out existing expression lines – no appointment required.

PHOTO-AGING

For healthier, stronger, smoother skin, it is best to limit sun exposure. It is well documented that solar radiation causes skin damage and photo-aging. In fact, scientific studies show the sun causes more than 80 percent of visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging. Overexposure breaks down the skin’s underlying structure and affects its appearance, especially in sensitive, sun-prone areas like the cheeks and neck. Guarding against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays – the ‘aging rays’ – is fundamental to skin health, as both are responsible for long-term damage, including wrinkles. Scientists have also recently learned that within the solar spectrum, longer wavelengths such as Infrared Radiation (IRA) have been shown to alter the collagen equilibrium, while decreasing the synthesis of collagen itself. Choose products that contain an SPF of 30 or more with UVA, UVB and IRA protection to stop premature aging due to sun damage.

References:

Simon, Harvey (2012). MD, Editor-in-Chief, In-Depth Reports; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Skin wrinkles and blemishes.

Flament F, Bazin R, Laquieze S, Rubert V, Simonpietri E, Piot B (2013). Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2013;6:221-232. doi:10.2147/CCID.S44686.

Keywords: Lines, Wrinkles, Science, Aging, Expressions Lines, Gravity, Skin Care, Line Interception Power Duo, UVA, UVB, IRA, SPF, Sun

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