Collaboration with La Prairie
La Prairie, the luxury Swiss skincare brand, continues its commitment to the arts world with a collaboration between Nobuhiro Nakanishi and Max Richter, at Art Basel Miami OVR.
“Our audacious spirit – a willingness to break the codes of luxury, to follow untrodden paths that surprise as much as they inspire – is the very same audacious spirit as that of the artist,” notes Greg Prodromides, Global Chief Marketing Officer at La Prairie. Beyond skincare, the brand has been inextricably linked to the art world from its inception in 1931 in Montreux, Switzerland. La Prairie explores the union of art and science through artistic collaborations presented at international fairs, including Art Basel as well as West Bund Art & Design. They continue to work with visionary creatives from across the globe, from Swiss-Guinean photographer Namsa Leuba and Spanish installation artist Pablo Valbuena to French designer Paul Coudamy and even pioneers from the Bauhaus school. For Art Basel’s OVR Miami Beach (Virtual edition, 2-6 December 2020), La Prairie commissioned Japanese artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi and British composer Max Richter to explore the realm of timelessness, eternity and dreams.
For Eternal Circle, Nakanishi employed a centuries-old Eastern approach to hand- drawing that consists of countless vertical lines drawn free-hand by the artist. The resulting piece comprises a 60-piece row of individual stripe drawings. When aligned, the individual pieces total an astounding 24 metres, one for every hour of the day. Installed in an endless loop, they create an eternal image end-to-end – a flowing representation of past, present and future in which the last drawing of the sequence meets the first and blurs beginning and end into a single, eternal whole. The drawings have been incorporated into a film accompanied by Richter’s Platinum score, complementing the flowing loop of lines with an emotional, soaring rhythm.
This collaboration builds on La Prairie’s commitment to connecting past and present, coming alongside the launch of their latest skincare product, the Platinum Rare Haute- Rejuvenation Protocol. This addition to the exclusive Platinum Rare Collection confirms La Prairie is as bold scientifically as they are artistically. We speak with Nakanishi Nobuhiro about the artwork, and how he interpreted the open brief.
A: Your artwork moves between installation, sculpture, photography including “stripe drawings” of natural landscapes. How would you describe your practice?
NN: For me, sculpture comprises the relationship between time and body. In nature, for example, the light dynamically changes in the sky with the morning and evening sun. I often climb up mountains to document and depict these changes, physically feeling the terrain. Nature isn’t a uniform and stable landscape, but a space to feel the flow of time through the body. For my practice, I transform nature and space into a continuous mass of time through photography, immersing the viewer away from the chaos of everyday life. I draw a lot of inspiration from the traditional Japanese architecture and gardens, spaces that allow for the human body and eyes to wander and move around. This thinking is rooted in the Japanese Buddhist, who believes the world is not external to the body, but the human is part of the layers that make up the world.
A: How important is it that you create multi-disciplinary work, which exists outside of a singular definition, mirroring ephemeral subject matter and phenomena?
NN: Academic subjects – such as science and history – continue to develop. Art captures things that human beings have not yet systematically understood. Art makes it possible to instinctively grasp things that mankind cannot yet explain. My work is where emotions are heightened, going beyond tangible art.
A: Why is it important that we, as viewers, consumers and individuals, slow down and take time to appreciate a singular moment and become rooted in the present?
NN: For me, there is no boundary between a particular moment and eternity. In my work, one moment overlaps another. In many of my installations, I present images in a loop or circle, transitioning from one second to the next allowing the viewer to see the time flow. For me, time does not move at a constant, linear speed, but changes through the given individual and their line of sight. In the everyday, I see time through the clock face, but in my practice, I want to be freed from this concept of time. I create an imaginative experience linked to an extraordinary, looping universe.
A: La Prairie’s commission encapsulates the idea of the “Platinum Moment.” What does it mean to you and how did you begin to interpret the brief?
NN: Platinum is a special and rare precious metal – a substance carved from the depths of the universe. When grappling with such a fragment, our imagination is stirred. We begin thinking about the formation of the world, from the origin of creation and beyond the dimensions of what we can physically see.
A: You often visit landscapes primarily – taking photographs before translating these into artworks. How did you respond to the Swiss mountain formations?
NN: Colours, light and clouds might seem far away, but when I stand on the summit, I feel connected within a continuous, borderless space. I think that landscape is a motif I can capture as a negative sculpture of the entire earth. The Swiss mountains impressed me immensely. They are completely different from the Japanese soil-rich land I am used to. Instead, I found rock mountains of hard minerals that have formed after an enormous amount of time. The range stood out sharply on the horizon, and the clouds surrounded them softly, shape-shifting. The huge accumulation of mountains offered an extreme contrast to the usual, fast-paced speed of time in the built-up world. The scenery wasn’t just beautiful; I experienced the mystery of being human in our galaxy. Nature makes us feel part of something bigger.
A: Tell us about Eternal Circle, the new work your created?
NN: In my practice, I focus on two types of works: Layer Drawings and Stripe Drawings. The Stripe Drawings comprise numerous vertical freehand drawn lines by pencil on paper. The set of lines – drawn at intervals – adjoin without defining a solid figure. The lines cannot exist without the gaps, and the blank spaces cannot exist without the lines; they co-exist in perfect harmony like two sides of a coin. Eternal Circle is a film that includes 60 drawings and music, combining ancient traditions and craftsmanship with new technology, digitised into video. In the film, the first and last images are connected, drawing from ideas from Japanese picture scrolls.
A: How did you start planning the collaboration with Max Richter?
NN: This is the first time that I have collaborated with a composer. We made the work as a response to my experience in Switzerland and the notion of time inherent to the element of platinum. I was conscious of including soft, subtle transitions in the music and images, replicating what I remembered from the summit. The goal was for Richter’s music to depict my experience – where contours, spatial distances and physical boundaries dissolve, leaving a sense of a faraway universe immune to physical touch. More than just a succession of lines, the pencil-drawn lines capture an infinite flow between the artwork and viewer – a bond between representation and reception. This is an endless loop conveying both tactile and eternal beauty.
A: La Prairie is a brand that combines science, heritage and art. How did you and Max tap into these connected concepts, using both traditional and contemporary techniques, whilst observing the alpine landscape?
NN: Before travelling to Switzerland, I had researched the concept of time in outer space and how this notion could relate to a fixed location like Switzerland. My visit to Switzerland was spent shooting the scenery. Afterwards, whilst drawing the topography, I was transported back to the moment, feeling the air on my skin. I then used digital techniques to recreate these experiential images and sensations.
A: How has the pandemic inspired you to work differently; can we see this here?
NN: I have re-acknowledged the communion between the body and its environment. Inspired by an ancestral technique, freehand drawing is completely disconnected from the online world, the same way my mind was disconnected from any time restrictions. Seeing the process of these tranquil drawings gaining motion in a digitised movie felt like travelling. This work is a unique opportunity to think about the relationship between digital tools and the human body.
La Prairie Platinum Rare Haute-Rejuvenation Protocol is available from 15 February.
1. Nobuhiro Nakanishi, Niederhorn Peak in the Swiss Alps.
2. Nobuhiro Nakanishi’s creative journey at the Niederhorn peak.
3. The Platinum Moment: An Artistic Encounter.
4. Platinum Rare Haute-Rejuvenation Protocol.
5. Platinum – a rare and desirable metal.
6. Nobuhiro Nakanishi and Max Richter, An Artistic Encounter for La Prairie.