With all the art happenings this month — the FNB Joburg Art Fair (JAF) this past weekend and a line-up of events around the much-anticipated Zeitz Mocaa opening in Cape Town beginning this weekend — one can’t help but think of art and watches this week.

Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’ is perhaps the most recognizable artworks to feature watches. Created in 1931, his iconic melting pocket watches represented the Surrealist artist’s theories of ‘softness’ and ‘hardness’ and the distorted perception of dream time and space. It is also believed that Dali was influenced by Einstein’s theory of relativity. Cartier’s lounge at the JAF hosted ‘The Ordinary Becomes Precious’, an exhibition of talented emerging artists who were inspired by the Juste un Clou bracelet. There was no sign of a particularly wonky-shaped artsy watch, which was surely inspired by Dali’s masterpiece. The Crash was created in 1967 in ‘Swinging London’ and captured the crazy, carefree spirit of the era.

The Crash
The Crash
Image: Cartier

The JAF celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in fine form. According to the fair’s director Mandla Sibeko, this presented a time for serious reflection. “In preparing for this edition, we asked ourselves if we ever simply reflect on a scenario without imagining the potential outcomes, or envision a future without considering the past? So we used this natural moment of reflection and celebration as a framework for the focus of this year’s fair – to interrogate how closely the acts of ‘Looking Back & Looking Forward’ are tied. We looked back at the legacy of modern and contemporary African art while looking forward to the future possibilities of artistic practices, communities, and markets on the continent.”

South Africa’s most prolific contemporary artist William Kentridge deals with the experience of time in his ‘The Refusal of Time’ installation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2013. I recall the video projections of giant metronomes, hand-drawn clocks and maps in the room filled with giant contraptions.   

Holland Cotter of the New York Times wrote: “This complex, meticulously programmed sound-and-light work, which runs 30 minutes, is a collaboration between Kentridge and Peter L Galison, a professor of the history of science and of physics at Harvard, where Kentridge lectured last year. In researching the work of Albert Einstein and the late-19th-century mathematician Henri Poincaré, Galison discovered that both thinkers independently concluded that time, as experienced in the modern, industrialised world, is a relative rather than universally fixed phenomenon. Kentridge approaches the same idea through references to European colonialism, which strove to shape non-Western cultures to set concepts of reality, only to find that those cultures had different, resistant, ultimately assertive realities of their own.”

Time for observance of Chinese culture and the watch industry’s growth potential, the rooster had its moment of fame this year and was celebrated though elaborately decorated timepieces on show at the watch fairs. However, if you’re a bird of a different feather but appreciate the fine art of miniature painting and relief work, the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Flamed Gold dial watch presented a decorative theme with more longevity. Flamed gold is a new decorative technique developed by Cartier’s high jewellery division and involves heating and engraving the gold surface at varying temperatures to achieve different colour ways.

The Ronde Louis Cartier XL Flamed Gold dial watch
The Ronde Louis Cartier XL Flamed Gold dial watch
Image: Cartier

This year has not been for pussies and Cartier has been more spot on with its fast, agile cats. Apart from the relaunch of their best-selling Panthère de Cartier from the 80s their haute jewellery and horlogerie cabinets are sparkling impressively with the charming feline in all number of guises.

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