Joe Tilson first travelled to Venice in 1949 and immediately fell in love with the city. Ever since, the renowned British artist has travelled back twice a year (always by train – he hates flying), drawing a lifetime of inspiration from the Italian city; he married his wife Joslyn there in 1956 and represented Great Britain at the 32nd International Art Exhibition in ‘64.
For Tilson, the city has proved a catalyst for inspiration, love and enjoyment, so when he was invited by Swatch to collaborate for the Swiss brand’s pavilion – the only none country to have a site at the Biennale – at this year’s 58th La Biennale di Venezia Arte, the pairing just clicked.
Titled The Flags, the resulting installation features 24 large, double-sided flags boasting geometric patterns lifted from Venice’s rich history of painting, architecture, design and the written word; from Venetian church façades, to the city’s patina stone flooring and the Harlequin, that represents the Carnival of Venice. Translating these motifs into his own playful vision, Tilson’s flags are left to billow in the wind – representing “a message of happiness and freedom.”
And it’s a big year for Tilson, marking two major milestones – his 90th birthday and 70 years of making art. In celebration of these timestamps, Swatch has created a special Joe Tilson Venetian Watch, limited to just 2019 pieces. Much like Tilson’s artwork, there’s an added level of detail here; peek closely and you’ll see the artist’s pencil outlines on the dial, adding a personal touch that offers glimpses into Tilson’s process.
This collaboration continues Swatch’s commitment to both nascent and established artists that has seen them previously collaborate with the likes of Ian Davenport and Damien Hirst, whilst in 2011 the brand opened the doors to The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, an artist residency in Shanghai where young artists are invited to live and work together.
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