Rolex's far-reaching mentoring programme, that sees gifted protégés matched with masters in their fields, has generated a plethora of new and extraordinary works since its inception in 2002. From great literature, to beautiful music and inspiring architecture, each of the Arts Initiative projects follow a year of collaboration and creative mentoring that span generations and cross continents – an opportunity that's simply unavailable anywhere else. Past mentors have included the likes of Martin Scorsese, Stephen Frears, Toni Morrison, Anish Kapoor and David Hockney, to name just a few.
For the initiative's 2012–2013 edition, architecture was added to the programme, with Japan's Kazuyo Seijima of SANAA inaugurating the role alongside the young Chinese architect Zhao Yang of China. Together they created a community meeting house in the Japanese fishing port of Kesennuma, as part of the rebuilding effort following following 2011's tsunami. For 2014–2015, elusive Swiss architect Peter Zumthor paired with his protégé Gloria Cabral of Paraguay to create a tea chapel at a religious site in South Korea; and last week it was announced that British architect David Chipperfield will take the baton for 2016–2017.
Fittingly, the announcement was made last weekend within Mexico City's monolithic, Chipperfield-designed Museo Júmex at a ceremony honouring the mentors and protégés of the 2014–2015 edition and which also saw the esteemed architect deliver an address about the Júmex project and the ideas behind it. Also named as mentors for the 2016–2017 cycle were Mia Couto (literature), Alfonso Cuaroón (film), Philip Glass (music), Joan Jonas (visual arts), Robert Lepage (theatre) and Ohad Naharin (dance).
'The practice of architecture involves complex and overlapping concerns and skills from the theoretical to the practical,' said Chipperfield following the announcement. 'Intentions are often obscured by jargon and inappropriate concerns. I would hope to remind my protégé that the issues that confront us are those that confront us all, we have different tools and methods with which we can contemplate and with which we can hopefully act.'
The protégés however, will not be chosen until June next year, when each mentor will be presented with a list of three or four finalists selected by a panel of influential artists and arts professionals from all over the world. The mentoring year will begin shortly afterwards, with each protégé receiving a generous 25,000 Swiss francs to support his or her participation in the programme, with a further 25,000 francs available for the creation of a new work at the conclusion of the mentoring year.
'These seven artists have had a profound influence on their disciplines for decades and are held in high esteem by the public and their peers,' said Rebecca Irvin, head of philanthropy at Rolex. 'We acknowledge their generosity in serving as mentors in the Rolex Arts Initiative. They will join the family of internationally acclaimed artists who have committed to passing on their passion and expertise to a younger generation and to be reinvigorated in their own art in return.'