Parmigiani Fleurier is one of the sleeper Swiss haute horlogerie brands. They are a true manufacture who has steadily created new movements and watches over its short 23 years of existence.
A good example of outstanding unique horological pieces are their Bugatti lines of tubular Tourbillon driving watches with 80 hours of power reserve and with an articulated case that perfectly wraps the driver’s wrist.
I covered this model in the summer of 2018 as I visited Bugatti during the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach, as the French super car brand was announcing the limited Divo edition of their latest Chiron supercar.
During ArtBasel in Miami Beach, I swing by the sole Parmigiani boutique in the US to see what novelties they had on hand and discovered that they had sponsored Venezuelan-born artist Rafael Barrios for a commission of small sculptures that adorned their store.
I quickly got an overview of Barrios’ art from the artist himself, as I tried to understand how his interesting art have a striking levitating 3D look to them and how they relate to the Parmigiani brand.
Barrios’s pieces remind me of the works of Alexander Calder, and that was not by accident since the artist was indeed inspired by the great American sculptor. However, while the resemblance is obvious to anyone who appreciates modern art, the differences are striking.
The reality is that Calder’s pieces live in three dimensions and are meant to be admired as normal sculptures. On the other hand, I think Barrios’s work give different looks and even a 3D floating appearance depending on the angle of view.
When photographed you could easily imagine that these are solid objects stacked on top of each other. The reality is they are actually flat, some parts slightly concave, to make the 3D appearance pop; essentially a trompe l’oeil.
While I was not able to discuss with the curator at the Parmigiani Studio to get the rationale behind their selections of Barrios for this exposition, I can however imagine some of the reasonings.
Like Parmigiani, Barrios’s work can appear like a plain simple sculpture when seen on the sides. it’s when you step back and even look through the lenses of a camera can you see the full picture. For me this fits perfectly with Parmigiani who’s watches may on the surface appear simple to the non-initiated.
Looking at them through the lens and knowledge of Michel Parmigiani’s extensive restoration expertise and the Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier’s constant stream of innovation, or their unique design language, can you appreciate why Parmigiani, like Barrios’s art, offers more to the owner than what is on the surface.
I applaud Parmigiani for being involved in the arts and selecting a lesser know artist for commissions. And in particular selecting an artist who has a unique expression to give to visitors and art lovers. One that presents works that have many dimensions that you discover as you look at them via different angles and even different mediums.
If you get a chance to go to the Miami Design District, I would highly encourage you to visit the Parmigiani Boutique to see some of Barrios’s work. And also take the opportunity to try on a Parmigiani watch on your wrist. Who knows, perhaps you will see, like me, the things that make this brand unique and celebrated amongst connoisseurs.