Compared to other contemporary art residencies, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel is unique: artists with no gallery background live for several months in a hotel in Shanghai. What other requirements are you looking for in the artists you select?
The Swatch Art Peace Hotel project welcomes artists from different backgrounds, nationalities and disciplines: those invited have proposed a stimulating, challenging and convincing project within their artistic career path — one that requires interaction with the Shanghai environment or China in general. We look for energy and an intriguing vision that will help create a diverse and potentially intertwined community.
Who is actually selecting the artists? Is there a committee, and does it change regularly?
There is a committee to which portfolios and applications are regularly submitted. It is chaired by the CEO of the Swatch Group, Nick Hayek.
How does the residency culminate? Do you select a prizewinner?
There is no winner, no prize. In the true spirit of Swatch, we are open, welcoming and truly democratic. The Swatch Art Peace Hotel is an experience. The reward for all artists is the experience itself, the connections they create, the community they build. For us, the reward is the exchange of energy, the inspiration, the connections. In our vision, artists are the ones with the power to make the world a better place, and they do so by challenging and by asking questions. Being asked stimulating questions, being made to fall in love with their expression and vision is our highest reward. The only thing we ask the artists is to leave behind a trace of their time.
How is Shanghai reacting to the residency?
First and foremost, it is actually interesting to see how artists react to Shanghai. A mix of fascination, fear, a need to explore, being mesmerized, awe…
We celebrated the Swatch Art Peace Hotel’s anniversary by opening the doors to Shanghai and creating “Faces & Traces,” an exhibition of all the “traces” the 139 artists in residence have left since the official opening in November 2011. This has made the project concretely visible and understood not only to the art community but also to the broader public. We were able to convey our message in a very emotional, truthful and direct way.
Why did you decide to start the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai? What brought you to this city?
Shanghai is a city bubbling, buzzing and bursting with energy — just like Swatch! There is the combination of the city’s fast development, the love of challenges that animates the people of Shanghai, the incredible location on the Bund. Mr Hayek felt the “call” from the building itself — the possibility of contemporary art bringing life back inside the walls of a historical landmark, the possibility of reworking the “hotel” metaphor for an art project: all these elements contributed to the choice. A choice we surely don’t regret.
Swatch has always been responsive to contemporary art. How do you see this long tradition evolving?
I can certainly say that Swatch will continue to explore new paths, to experiment with new expressions and accept new challenges, to fall in love with new ideas and aesthetics, to support meaningful and storytelling art projects — and we will do so hand in hand with artistic talents. The Swatch Art Peace Hotel will continue to be an amazingly privileged observation deck for new languages and new projects, and our research will continue. It makes our work immensely rewarding. It makes Swatch unique and we proudly enjoy that!
by Gea Politi