The contemporary art show Frieze New York, spread over eight levels of exhibit space at The Shed in New York until Sunday, is itself a massive work of performance art. Attendees come dressed in outlandishly creative outfits – one fair-goer wore a tie made of what appeared to be a coat hanger, bent into an upward position as if permanently blown upwards by the wind. The works on display are as wild as the colorful costumes worn by patrons. They are highly conceptual and outstandingly imaginative, many with almost impenetrable meanings attached to them. Picture in this scenario Breguet, one of Switzerland’s most traditional, classic watch brands. Not only does the brand have a large space, called a lounge, at the fair, but it is participating in the spirit of the show with its own high-concept installation, Orbital Time, an exhibition that takes the traditional concept of time and scrambles it beyond recognition.
Breguet tends to partner with more traditional organizations, including Carnegie Hall, The New York Philharmonic, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and The Louvre. “Frieze New York is not the usual kind of partnership for Breguet, but it opens our world to a remarkable new segment, the world of contemporary art, including patrons who are deeply interested in the craftsmanship and meaning behind art—and watchmaking is art,” said a Breguet spokesperson. “Last year we sold a watch to someone on the first morning of the fair who previously did not know the brand.” This is the second year of Breguet’s three-year partnership with Frieze. It makes sense when you think about the amount of wealth that is now devoted to works of contemporary art. Some of the price tags at Frieze are as outlandish as the works themselves and the wardrobes on display—hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art will be purchased at the show, most of it on opening day (Wednesday, May 17).
For the Frieze New York lounge, Breguet commissioned art curator Somi Sim to to oversee four distinct displays. An independent curator based between Seoul, Korea, and Paris, Sim worked with Raqs Media Collective and Norwegian artist Ann Lislegaard on the installations. Raqs Media Collective consists of three New Delhi-based artists: Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. Their installation, entitled “I fall in love out of orbit,” included several clocks representing the time in real cities like New York, Seoul, London, and Los Angeles, along with three mythical cities: Atlantis, Eldorado, and Kishkindha. On some of the clocks, hour numbers are replaced by words that define states of mind throughout the day: fatigue, anxiety, epiphany, ecstasy, etc. The idea is to contrast real time with imaginary or more ephemeral time, and how we experience time through our emotions in the moment. Some of the clocks were going backward to indicate memories and nostalgia, and how that is factored into the present time.
The installation by Norwegian artist Ann Lislegaard featured a video of an artificial owl “emerging from the deep darkness, stuttering and hesitating in a language that fails to articulate a vision. Instead of being a wise oracle, the owl’s utterances frame the concept of time against a horizon of cultural, technological, and natural disorder.” It is meant to disrupt our notion of the owl as a symbol of wisdom.
“Reflecting on Breguet’s heritage of invention and know-how, I aim to explore how our perception of time is constructed, and how contemporary art can represent time occurring beyond the linear,” Sim says. “I want this collaboration to show the complexity of a universal time, allowing us to recontextualize time across geopolitical divisions, cultural differences, and other boundaries.”
Breguet craftspeople were on hand at the lounge to demonstrate the arts of watchmaking and guilloché, at which visitors were invited to try their hand. And of course, there were plenty of Breguet watches on display, including the new Classique Quantième Perpétuel 7327, a refined version of the classic, in either rose or white gold. They are priced at $80,200—a pittance compared to some of the art on display. The fair is open to the public until the end of the day on Sunday.