These days, many luxury brands tap into the world of art and design, but few manage to do it with the grace that Swiss accessories brand Bally displayed in its most recent enterprise. The Form Scratch project, presented during Art Basel this week, is the first step in a year-long initiative that broadens the brand's commitment to art and design and its unique approach to preserving its heritage.
The project includes the restoration of one of Jean Prouvé's structural masterpieces, a collection of furniture by Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret and a new commission by French art duo Kolkoz. The triple bill of mid-century design, architecture and contemporary art might sound complex, but its execution is, thus far, flawless: all the elements fall into place seamlessly and give an enlightening overview of the brand and its scope.
Bally recently acquired a collection of Pierre Jeanneret's furniture and decided to display it alongside the partially restored La Maison des Sinistrés, the iconic house he designed in 1945 with Jean Prouvé. The house, a demountable 6x9 m pavilion featuring a 'compass' gantry, will travel on to Art Basel Miami Beach, with the restoration complete in time for the Hong Kong show. Working with curator Anissa Touati, Bally has also commissioned artworks inspired by the structure, to be exhibited on each step of the journey.
Benjamin Moreau and Samuel Boutruche of Kolkoz, drawing from their background working in video games and 3D digital imaging, playfully recreated the house's elements as a flat wooden panel. 'The Jean Prouvé house is something that can be built by two people in a day,' says Moreau, 'so we followed the same principle - flatten it out and make it like a toy for children.' Their piece is both a fun interpretation of the house's structure and a clinical document of its elements.
'For luxury brands, it's always about getting inspiration from the past and projecting it into the future,' says Bally CEO Frédéric de Narp, 'and this was remarkably done by Kolkoz.' The artists are key to the company's dialogue with a new generation, using language that brings the mid-century into the contemporary.
According to de Narp, the project aims to enrich the heritage of a brand that has collaborated with some of the greatest architects in modern history, from Robert Mallet-Stevens to Le Corbusier. '"Preserving" is a good word,' he says of the restoration. 'I like it. It is about continuity, it's about consistency, it's about heritage.'
De Narp is fascinated by the democratic and generous scope of Jeanneret and Prouvé's work. Built as a post-war housing solution, La Maison des Sinistrés combines functionality and beauty with benevolence.
In its embryo stage, Form Scratch forms the basis for a winning project that merges the past, present and future of the company in a way that should create debate and enrich the design panorama. 'This project has it all,' says de Narp. 'It makes sense, it's natural, it's genuine and it's a full expression of Bally.'