For nine days in February, Van Cleef & Arpels invited Singapore to discover the magic of its creations through its immersive “A Journey through the Poetry of Time” exhibition at Marina Bay Sands. We speak to Heritage and Exhibition Director Lise Macdonald on what it takes to stage a presentation of that scale.
Related article: First Look: Van Cleef & Arpels’s Sous les Étoiles Collection
Congratulations on the exhibition! What did Van Cleef & Arpels (VCA) set out to achieve with its staging?
The exhibition takes as a frame the poetry of time and the Pont des Amoureux watch, where you literally step not only into the world of the watch, but the universe of VCA. So, it really was meant to bring visitors through the different sources of inspirations and worlds that make up the DNA of the Maison in an immersive, poetic and fun way—because the exhibition is quite interactive, theatrical and diverse in its approach. We had several goals in mind. One of them was to reach out and engage with our audience, and to provide them with a feeling of enchantment and joy in a world of poetry and beauty; especially in a time where it’s difficult to bridge people and be together. It was also about education; about craftsmanship and the understanding of how complex these works are and the extraordinary skill needed to create them.
What are three things that you’re most proud of?
The best reward is the audience feedback and we’ve received a very positive one. People were completely enchanted, and they understood the bridge between past and present. Then there’s the immense teamwork that went into building the exhibition, from conceptualisation to realisation; not only by the teams who conceived the show, but also [those] who welcomed it. Given the particular context that we’re living in right now (with Covid), where most people—whether they’re from Hong Kong, Paris or other places in the world—are not able to travel and have to work remotely with the Singapore team, to be able to bring this to Singapore and make it happen is a big achievement. Lastly, it’s the showing of the continuity of inspiration, which I think the exhibition displayed brilliantly. There is a style, a DNA, a spirit in the work of VCA. And I think whether you enter in the room that is linked to astronomy, or one that is more linked to gardens, you have that sense of continuity, this thread; and this is something [we received visitor feedback on].
The exhibition presented close to 200 creations. How mammoth was the task of selecting the pieces to fly in?
My team worked on the patrimonial side; the historical pieces. Once the concept and direction were pinned down, it was just a question of picking pieces that are linked to Paris, Asia, nature, couture. And of course, pieces that are important to the story of the Maison, like the [Cadenas watch] in leather and wood from 1972. It was really a back and forth [process]. We have a lot of events taking place concurrently, so obviously, the entire collection is never available at any one time, which constrains on the one hand but helps with selection on the other. I hope audiences left [the exhibition] enchanted. And of course, with an understanding of the unique craftsmanship that goes into every single piece that VCA creates.