Throughout its three-century history, the Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin has exemplified a deep commitment to the arts, most recently partnering with the Louvre, as well as hosting a series of exhibitions in its New York Flagship showcasing work by American artists like Chris Burden, photographer Cory Richards, and contemporary pop artist Jojo Anavim. Its new exhibition, “The Anatomy of Beauty,” presents an immersive exploration of extraordinary watches curated alongside “These Waters,” a larger-than-life oceanic series of work by the interdisciplinary artist Melissa McGill.
Coralized structures and skeletonized watch-movements echo esthetic rhythms of plains and voids, shadow and light, and carefully crafted natural and mechanical surfaces. The entire movement of a watch’s movement appears as organic and alive as the openwork lace-architecture of the ocean’s coral and the tick-tock steady rhythm of the earth’s water waves as depicted by McGill. In its meticulous attention to detail both in beauty and in function, Vacheron Constantin highlights the visceral beauty between human hands and nature’s hand.
This detailed work is stunningly shown in the new Vacheron Constantin gold timepiece, Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar. The watch is magnified by a sapphire dial which extends an invitation to dive into the heart of its anatomy and explore its ultra-thin and skeletonized perpetual calendar. On special exhibit for the show is a platinum limited edition of Skeleton Minute Repeater, a watch with a skeletonized sapphire crystal dial displaying iconic teardrop lugs and decorative hand-engraved wheels, bridges, and racks that track the hours and minutes.
Other pieces include the modern Égérie ladies’ watch with a dial inspired by guilloche-tapestry techniques and set with diamonds in an off-centered display intertwined with a moon-phase calendar and the Vacheron Constantin crown; an engine-turned 1822 gold pocket watch set with a delicate, brilliant wave of amethyst; and a limited-edition Métiers d’Art “Les Masques” collection of watches which depict twelve masks from the Barbier-Mueller Museum’s collection through a sculpted gold plate with hand-chiseled reliefs, a beating-heart caliber, and written poetry by Michel Butor on each respective dial.
At the centerpiece of this exhibition stands “These Waters,” capturing and reflecting the light, reflection, transparency, shadow and ephemerality of these works. McGill’s site-specific sculptural installation comprises five large-scale photographs of New York’s Hudson River on glass. The intricate and glittering panels lean against walls and each other, appearing to be portals into the waters, their size and placement evoking the rise and fall of the tides.
Through the language of light and water, “The Anatomy of Beauty”, on view through September 2022, reminds viewers of their unity with the natural world, revealing the minutest intricacies in the details of Vacheron Constantin through the magnified organic beauty of McGill’s waters.