La Prairie travels into the light, illuminating your skin with its new White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire, while simultaneously brightening the art world through its partnership with Swiss artist Julian Charrière.

It’s been some time since the corporate world took the reins from monarchies and governments as the chief supporter of the arts across the globe. Luxury brands from Vuitton to Cartier sing their support for contemporary artists, providing not only financial patronage, but platforms for exposure, building in opportunities for commercial collaborations and partnerships that go far beyond mere marketing opportunities. 

Although it has long nurtured a relationship with art and aesthetics, La Prairie only recently chose to formalise this association, becoming a global sponsor of Art Basel. At last year’s fair in Basel, it debuted collaborative projects by artists inspired by the Skin Caviar line of skincare products.

At this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong, the brand returned with another new product and another artist, unveiling both White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire and an installation by conceptual artist Julian Charrière in its VIP booth at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. 

Both creations centre around the concept of light: on a practical level, the Crème Extraordinaire uses patented and proprietary ingredients such as Lumidose to increase luminosity of the skin. Meanwhile, Charrière’s piece, a small-screen video installation that’s a more succinct edit of a greater project that will debut later on, is called Light upon an Imaginary Space. It sheds light – literally, as well as figuratively – on dramatic landscapes, many set within Charrière’s, Art Basel’s and La Prairie’s shared home country of Switzerland, reminding viewers that these places of untold beauty, once so mysterious and forbidding, are now in danger of collapse thanks to environmental stresses.

“The vision that we have and the understanding we have of these places has completely changed,” explains the artist. “It was something we wanted to conquer, something reducing mankind to the smallest thing … and now, we need to save [it]. For sure I’m climate conscious, it’s part of my work, it’s part of my duty to make what I can about that, but it’s a lot about tension and discord.”

The timing couldn’t be more apt, as the skincare world this year collectively ramped up its efforts to battle negative environmental factors and their impact on skin. “We have learned in the last couple of years how pollutants affect the skin, and there is quite some research going on showing direct correlation in the development of age spots,” explains Dr Daniel Stangl, La Prairie’s long-time director of innovation. “I think we’re now in the phase that we know enough that we can define the products, that’s why it’s exploding.”

But while battling concerns is one aspect of both pieces, exposing light and beauty is the more abiding message. “We focus with the White Caviar collection on increasing luminosity, we want to give back that glow, this inner glow, infuse your skin with liquid light. [So this is] a crème that makes use of the most potent tyrosinase inhibitor.

“Tyrosinase is the enzyme that catalyses the formation of melanin, so if you inhibit that enzyme, you block more or less the formation of new melanin,” says Stangl. “This is still one of the most promising approaches to fighting age spots and hyperpigmentation. And this is simply the best molecule in class, so this is outstanding, and that’s why we thought we really have to develop a new product that makes use of this new ingredient Lumidose, just to offer something superior above all the other whitening products on the market.”

 It’s certainly no coincidence that Charrière’s work dovetails so perfectly with the concept of the product. “As the result of investment in this world, we meet a lot of people – we meet curators, museums, gallery people; we go to the fairs, we engage in conversations and discussions with artists. Some of them come to fruition, some don’t, then sometimes we have specific ideas in mind,” says La Prairie’s Chief Marketing Officer, Greg Prodromides.

“On the occasion of the launch of White Caviar Crème Extraordinaire, we had the idea of light, so we
wanted to go into creative discussions about the expression of light. By meeting and exchanging with a lot of people, at some point in time something emerges, and you say yes, that’s a match. It’s how it happened last year with Skin Caviar and how it happened this year with White Caviar and the patronage of Julian’s work, and the creation of this specific work for us.”

An organic and natural partnership was of the highest priority for both parties. “You cannot do marketing with artists,” says Prodromides. “If you try to do this, it’s to me useless and stupid. They need to have their creative liberty and they need to be able to express what they feel. We are there to inspire them, I hope, a bit more. Sharing our story of heritage, some of our codes, this can be inspiring to them, and to support them.”

“I’m a little bit old fashioned,” adds Charrière. “I don’t want my image to be printed somewhere with a La Prairie logo. I’m very picky about that, I can be quite annoying, and they were very respectful of that, so they really acted as patron.”

And when a partnership is fruitful, it also opens up further opportunities – that applies not just to La Prairie’s specific patronage of Charrière, which includes funding his expeditions across the globe to film using high-tech drone cameras, but to its growing relationship with the contemporary art world. 

“Through these encounters, we meet people with whom we share common vision, aesthetics, style, expression. [Charrière’s] style is pure, sleek, but also poetic, at the same time raw, but very defined – a bit like Switzerland. And if you find someone with whom you share these artistic values, then of course, the relationship that you build is longer term.

“But there are also ongoing projects that build this link, that build this platform of communication between the maison La Prairie and the world of contemporary art, and this can take different shapes and forms. [Shortly, for example,] you will see we will launch a new product, and we asked an artist to give us a new interpretation of the packaging.”

But to really, properly understand how intrinsic this relationship is, you approach not a man of words and marketing, but a man of science and innovation. Although his role keeps him mainly in the lab and far from the halls of art fairs and museums, Stangl puts it best describing the manner in which art and science meet at La Prairie.

“I think art is about stimulating your imagination. Art is to show you new angles of reality. It forces you to look differently at things that you thought you knew.

“This is exactly what we do; we try to discover new aspects in skin biology, we try to look at the skin in a different way, we try to find new ways. That kind of creativity is so important.

“If you look at a piece of art, either you like it or you hate it. You like it when you are touched emotionally, if it evokes something in you, an experience, a thought, memories. Or you get all of a sudden a new insight on something. This is what art actually does with you, and I feel the same attitude is also important for us.

“We try to create things by the eyes of an artist, how an artist is working. To be creative, to be looking from different sides, also to be audacious to question, to go out there and do the unthinkable. 

“This is what art is all about. That’s why I feel very comfortable with this liaison between art and science, because science has a lot to do with art, and art, maybe had to do with science, because art may reveal more about true reality than what we are able to perceive with our eyes.

“Like yin and yang, they are somehow interrelated.”