By Tali Minor
The contemporary art exhibition Desert X has literally changed the landscape of the Coachella Valley in Southern California. Since its inception in 2017, the exhibition has supported the work of more than 50 artists, who have each created site-specific installations for the biannual show. This year, luxury watchmaker Richard Mille is the presenting sponsor of Desert X, which comes to a close on May 16. “Where our timepieces are tiny universes compared to the site-specific art installations coming to the Coachella Valley,” says John Simonian, CEO, Richard Mille Americas, “we are all striving in our respective formats to challenge conventions, celebrate cultures and foster dialogue about larger concepts, including the nature of time itself.” Here, we continue our conversation with Simonian about art and time in the desert.
As the Presenting Sponsor of Desert X, what made this international art exhibition such an important one for the brand to support?
For years Richard Mille’s support of art institutions, and collaborations with individual artists, has been an important pillar of the brand. Richard Mille’s commitment to the arts includes being a partner of Palais de Tokyo, France and collaborations with choreographer Benjamin Millepied, musician Pharrell Williams, composer Thomas Roussel, and street artist Kongo. A company belonging to the Richard Mille Group, the Parisian publishing house Éditions Cercle d’Art, has long published monographs of contemporary artists, including Picasso, who strongly supported the institution in its early years. Desert X’s literal removal of any walls that may have restricted today’s contemporary artists aligns with Richard Mille’s commitment to take the art and craft of fine watchmaking into a new realm. Where our timepieces are tiny universes compared to the site-specific art installations coming to the Coachella Valley, we are all striving in our respective formats to challenge conventions, celebrate cultures, and foster dialogue about larger concepts, including the nature of time itself. We anticipate the people who attend Desert X, over the course of two months and the expanse of many miles, will step outside the familiar and interact in a meaningful way with this remarkable time and place.
Are you an art collector?
I consider myself more of an art admirer, than a collector!
Can you share a bit about the film Richard Mille has helped to produce for Desert X?
At this time the film is still in production, in order to capture the installations in their final form. But after the artwork comes down in May, this documentary will live on, and it also provides a way for people around the world, who cannot visit California right now, to experience Desert X 2021.
What parallels do you find in watchmaking and contemporary art? Certainly both are collectible and highly valued; is there something more personal to you?
I think personal is a key word—the specific watch that a person falls in love with, the piece of art that strikes a chord in someone—it is such a personal and emotional response, and different for everyone.
What’s on your wrist at the moment?
I’m wearing the new RM 65-01 Automatic Split Seconds Chronograph in carbon TPT, which took five years of development and is the most complex watch Richard Mille has produced to date.
Any artist collaborations on the horizon?
It is possible!
In regards to Richard Mille Bal Harbour Shops, is there something new in store that you’d like to share?
We just introduced a new gem-setting technique—“snow setting”—in our women’s collection that creates a new level of brilliance. Precious stones of various sizes adorn the cases and dials in what appears to be a haphazard pattern, and the result makes each watch individually unique, like a snowflake.