Damien Hirst was on to something when he incorporated watches by the Florentine manufacturer Panerai into his high-profile artworks - first in 2005 with 'Skull with Watch', and then with 'The Tranquility of Solitude (for George Dyer)' in 2006 and 'Killing Time' in 2008. For one thing, those installations earned him millions at auction. But more recently they've inspired the watchmaker to sponsor an exhibition at Milan's Triennale Design Museum, inviting dozens of artists and designers to explore the concept of time in their work.
'O'Clock: Time Design, Design Time' incorporates work from designers and artists Marc Newson, Darren Almond and Maarten Baas, among others. The exhibits, chosen from existing collections and commissioned specifically for the Triennale, meditate on memory, eternity and death, often wittily and poetically, always critically.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Hirst's latest work - an installation incorporating Panerai watch components - is given pride of place. Meanwhile, designer Patricia Urquiola, who helped produce the exhibition and conceive its layout, has devised the finale: a timeline of the Panerai brand, featuring a sequence of watches as characters in a narrative.
But museum curators Silvana Annicchiarico and Jan van Rossem have also foraged for lesser-known designers, in whose work time is of the essence. The Brazilian creative technologist João Wilbert, working for Benetton's creative lab Fabrica, has contributed his 'Exquisite Clock', a series of interactive screens that flash images of everyday objects resembling numbers (bottlecaps, rolls of tape, rubber gloves) as visitors upload them. And Italy's own Studio Sovrappensiero offers up its highly flammable 2008 waxwork 'Scented Time', evidence that all your five senses will be called on to participate.