“The cool peace and dewy sweetness of the night filled me with a mood of hope,” Charlotte Brontë wrote in her 1853 novel Villette. “Not hope on any definite point, but a general sense of encouragement and heart-ease.”
“Heart-ease” is exactly the feeling conjured by “Sense of Blue,” an interactive installation by digital artist Maotik made in collaboration with skincare brand La Prairie, which was revealed at Art Basel in Switzerland last month. Observers were invited into a pitch-black room illuminated only by a giant cobalt blue sphere of light, as the sounds of crickets and other nocturnal species engulfed you. The installation responded to the movement of people in the room, cycling through the many phases of night: dusk, evening, and deepest night. The result was an interactive environment that inspired serenity and calm, projecting an almost womb-like feeling of peace.
“I really wanted to create this kind of space where you just forget about your life for six minutes, and you go into this place that has a code, or a perspective that you don’t have on a daily basis,” Maotik told ELLE.com. “And I think art, especially now with COVID, and what we went through… it just allows you to just escape for a while, and let your imagination go according to what you see.”
“Sense of Blue” is part of La Prairie’s ongoing commitment to the arts and the concept of “luxury with a higher meaning,” a motto that takes on new resonance in a time of increasing wealth disparity, climate catastrophe, and a global pandemic. According to La Prairie CEO Greg Prodromides, luxury with a higher meaning is about “understanding the necessity and the expectation of our society to be responsible in the way it grows—to ensure the growth for today, but also the growth for tomorrow.” That includes thinking “about the impact [luxury] has on the planet, on the people and communities, and takes this into account, in order to improve the life of people, employees, and communities that are part of its values on the chain.”
It also means channeling a not insignificant portion of its proceeds to the arts, particularly in its home country of Switzerland. For the last several years, La Prairie has commissioned an artwork to be created and displayed at its lounge at Art Basel. Previous collaborators include Senta Simond and Julian Charrière.
Maotik’s “Sense of Blue” is coupled with the launch of La Prairie’s newest product, Skin Caviar Night Time Oil, a caviar-derived retinol treatment that targets everything from wrinkles to skin sagging. The Skin Caviar products have long been packaged in a signature cobalt blue bottle, an homage to artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who described it as “the color of joy and luck.” With “Sense of Blue,” La Prairie and Maotik explore the color even further, but this time in a way that the public can experience. The installation is outside the jurisdiction of Art Basel, meaning that anyone could go and see it, even if they weren’t ticketed for the event. The piece also traveled to Frieze London, and was on display at the FIAC Art Fair in Paris this past weekend.
“I’m so happy the public could come,” Maotik said. “Because art should be open to anyone, and should be also accessible in the street.”
In addition to “Sense of Blue,” La Prairie has also partnered with Basel’s Fondation Beyeler to help support its Piet Mondrian conservation project. The patronage, announced in 2020, will allow the curators at Fondation Beyeler to study and restore four of the Dutch artist’s works in advance of a 2022 exhibit celebrating Mondrian.
“Many great pieces of art are surely of timeless relevance or even beauty, since their aesthetic—as in the case of Mondrian’s art—has become intrinsic to what we understand as beautiful or significant,” senior curator Urs Erbslöh said. That commitment to timeless beauty is one only a skincare brand like La Prairie can truly understand.
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