Experimental artist and stage director Robert Wilson collaborated with Van Cleef & Arpels to create an immersive art installation showcasing a selection of stunning pieces. Entitled L’Arche de Noé, uniquely crafted pins are set in pairs (mostly) and designed in a myriad of colours and settings that illustrate the incredible talent of the Van Cleef & Arpels team. As is customary with Wilson’s stagings, the darkened exhibition hall brings into play all your senses, leading you to view and experience the high-jewellery art in unexpected new ways. From behind glass windows, glittering diamond-laden animals wink out. Pairs of birds, primates and ocean-dwelling creatures have been intricately crafted to pay homage to the natural world.
We spent some time with Robert Wilson to understand the creative process that led to his design for the installation, and how he continues to draw on key tropes of light, sound and space to create his inimitable scenes.
What made you say yes to working with the Van Cleef & Arpels team?
This is my first time designing a scenography for the realm of fine jewels, and I revel in exploring new territories to challenge my creativity.
Animals have always been fascinating me, because they are always living with all their senses. When I once went to the Berlin Zoo, just before they closed the gates in the evening, I had a touching encounter with wolfs. Standing right in front of the wolf enclosure, I was looking at them in silence for several minutes and they were staring back, without any movement, living in this exact moment. Within these minutes of intensive silence and calm, I felt how they felt me as well – it was as if we became one with each other.
Light was one of the most important elements when creating this exhibition, using the light as an active participant. The exhibition is depicting a preserved paradise that can be discovered through the jewels that reveal the beauty of the fauna in all its richness and facets.
In designing anything, a work for stage, an installation, a video portrait, I start with light. When we were making this exhibition, I turned off all the lights in this room and I lit the light to see just my hand. I see the light as an active participant, as important as an actor on stage. I also thought of the space and saw the passage of a boat, the passage of an ark – the passage of time, music and light at day and night. How these jewels become a navigation chart like the star system. How this boat becomes a little speck in the middle of this large body of water.
In my vision of the Ark, the installation is structured by the counterpoint between the lightness of a calm sea and the darkness of a storm. The constant video of slowly moving waves, and the meditative music of Arvo Pärt contrast the darkness, thunder, and flashes of light.
The challenge lies in smaller scales, like this exhibition room, it is important and challenging to create effects – new, different effects compared to a theater stage. In this exhibition, some displays are attached lower than others, which is not only in order to help children see them as well, but another effect is that also adults will look at the displays longer, when they have to bend down and make an effort to see what beauty is hidden inside the showcase. To create a space where one can carefully observe the artworks.
The exhibition will be hosted at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre until March 26. To find out more or to book, visit vcaarchedenoe.com.hk.