Art and Watchmaking at the Chantilly Arts Et Elegance Richard Mille 2017
Art et Elegance Richard Mille 2017 at Chateau de Chantilly was an alchemical cocktail of soulful art and emotional engineering.
Due to the popularity of the holiday, most of the Western world is accustomed to the beautiful story of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus and how Christmas day marks the beginning of a new Earth (and testament). What’s little mentioned is the darker story behind the visit of the three wise men or Magi, in addition to bearing symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they came with a warning that a de-stabilised political leader, King Herod, a family friend of Julius Caesar himself, was threatened by the prophecy of “the birth of a newborn king”. Mad with paranoia, King Herod the murder of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem and the region.
Suffice it to say, the infant Jesus and family escaped and the rest, they say is history. This monumental event has been commemorated by countless artists in various depictions of Le Massacre des Innocents but in the 18th century, influential Italian aristocrat, banker and art collector Vincenzo Giustiniani commissioned Nicolas Poussin to do his own take. In painting his version of Massacre of the Innocents, Poussin defers from the other classical artists with his deft perspectives – where the others painted a literal massacre, Poussin reduced the mass slaughter to the perspective of just two: mother and child depicting the brutality on their faces, distancing his work from that of other artists which crammed their canvases full of infanticide and in the process, losing the emotionality of the moment.
What does this have to do with art and watchmaking one might ask? Where art chronicles the history and culture of man, watchmaking chronicles the history and progress (time and technology) of man. And so, on 9th and 10th September, the “Art et Elégance Richard Mille” event at the Château de Chantilly demonstrated the nigh matrimonial relationship between art and watchmaking; and more importantly, the emotionality present in both crafts and the people who indulge in them.
Watch and Art-lovers were thrilled with the kick-off to Chantilly Arts Et Elegance Richard Mille 2017 with an opening of the Inauguration of an exhibition dedicated to Poussin’s world renowned painting “Le Massacre des Innocents”. If art and watchmaking were soulmates as I proffer, the beginning of such a pivotal fair in the watchmaking world is marked by an equally pivotal moment in Christendom.
Watchmaking has shared and participated in crucial moments of human history – it assisted our agricultural development, served as a microcosm of engineering which prompted our industrial revolution, served as instruments of warfare, accompanied us to the moon and even returned Apollo 13 astronauts safely to Earth when we botched a mission to the Lunar surface. In kicking off Richard Mille’s Chantilly Arts Et Elegance 2017, Poussin’s seminal work served to focus the attention of the more introspective attendees on the shared history and connection between seemingly unconnected genres of human endeavour.
Richard Mille’s Artistic Director Mélanie Treton-Monceyron guided guests with the aid of talented young singers and dancers from Chantilly to the various artistic exhibits around Chateau grounds including a stunning mise en scène of Dali’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus and within the Museum itself, a moving rendition of “Hallelujah” in front of Picasso’s “Charnier”. In the presence of so much art, one might even have been forgiven for mistaking this as some frou-frou artfaire rather than the 4th edition of the world class automobile contest attracting over 16,000 visitors, a 20% increase in turnout – 90 classic cars competed in the Concours d’Etat and close to 800 participated in the Grand Prix des Clubs.
Cars and watchmaking, by virtue of gears and mechanisms, share a symbiotic relationship as well but supercars, by virtue of their superior engineering, breathe a rarified air with a higher breed of high performance watches – watches like the limited edition RM27-03 Rafael Nadal Tourbillon which can withstand 10,000 Gs of force equivalent to over 3000 space shuttle launches the McLaren RM-50-03, the lightest tourbillon split-second chronograph but I digress.
The Chantilly Arts Et Elegance Richard Mille 2017 saw Saturday’s first rally saw classic cars kicking off the Concours d’Etat, with the sportier supercars showcased on the second rally. On display were the most famous electric cars in automobile history, from 1899 to the present: the renowned Jamais-Contente from 1899, the first vehicle ever to clear 100 km/hr, and the avant-garde Porsche Mission E, boasting 600 hp and a 500-km range. Yet, even in the face of all this technology, the highlights of the event were still deeply classic – A legendary Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa stood side by side with a 250 GTO, all participants of the Le Mans 24 Hours, were on display in celebration of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary. Like classic watches, vintage cars are always in demand and in vogue.
Among the guests of Chantilly Arts Et Elegance 2017 were Richard Mille collaborators like Mutaz Barshim, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Jean Todt, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Alain Prost, all basking in a confluence of high technology, classic watchmaking, classic art and classic cars, headlined within the Richard Mille lounge around a Delahaye MS 135 coupé CHAPRON 1937 and serenaded by French music from the Belle Epoque – how’s that for artistic and historical synergy?
On Sunday, a rousing equestrian show performed by Mario Lurashi and his team (ironic if poetic that we still refer to the performance characteristics of modern cars by units of horsepower) preceded the award ceremony which bestowed the Richard Mille Concours d’Élégance prizes on the Renault Trezor — an electric-drive sport coupe GT — and the Citroën CXPERIENCE & Yang Li.
Prizes for Best of Show were conferred on the unbelievably curvaceous Pre-War Bugatti 57 S Atlantic from 1936, and a Post-War 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. It wasn’t just Art and Elegance which joined on the weekend of September 2017, it was an alchemical cocktail of soulful art and emotional engineering.
Words by Jonathan Ho.