Snow time: Not Vital’s ice-cool collaboration with Evian and Moncler
Swiss artist Not Vital enters uncharted waters in a new snow-inspired water bottle design with Evian and Moncler
Over the past few decades, Not Vital has been busy exploring the boundaries of art and architecture on a grand scale, his most notable recent works including a secular chapel in Bataan, Philippines and House to Watch Three Volcanoes in Indonesia. His latest project is a somewhat unexpected departure – a commission from Moncler to design a limited-edition 75cl glass bottle for Evian.
Unexpected, because as the Swiss-based artist notes, ‘I usually don’t do commercial collaborations. I am used to my artistic freedom, so to collaborate with two brands and their respective teams has been a new experience for me.’
It’s easy, though, to see how Vital’s customary reservations were overcome. The synergies are immediately obvious. For starters, all three collaborators have deep ties to the Alps. As part of its transition from classic partnerships – including its sustainable design-focused Activate Movement initiative with Virgil Abloh, and projects with Christian Lacroix and Alexander Wang – Evian was particularly insistent about working with a contemporary artist who had a connection with and understanding of its origins in the Alps.
Vital grew up in the snowy Engadin mountains which, for Moncler’s chairman and CEO Remo Ruffini, made the artist a shoo-in. ‘His work explores not just the spatial and socio-cultural backdrop of the Engadin Valley, it also reflects the magic and mystery of the mountains which are, of course, part of Moncler’s heritage.’
It probably also helped that Ruffini has known Vital – a man he hails as a genius – for many years. ‘For over 50 years, his practice has spanned performance, painting, sculpture and architecture,’ he says. ‘We have always been trying to work together, so the idea of collaborating on this project came naturally to my mind.’
For Vital, so used to creating oversized works that literally tower above the horizon, the opportunity to reduce his footprint, was an irresistible challenge, not least because he’d always thought that if he hadn’t become an artist, he would have gone into the business of selling water. ‘It could have been a natural career for me, as I grew up in a region with diverse mineral waters.’
His final design for Evian was based, not surprisingly, on snow – specifically the long winters of his childhood in the mountains. ‘I grew up in snow and so, snow has always been an important motif in my work,’ he says, explaining how he’s always been drawn to explore the relationship between form and materials, making sculptures with white plaster and creating snowballs out of glass and ceramics. ‘The idea for the design was immediate. I started by painting snowflakes on flat glass, and then I moved on to painting them on an empty prototype bottle.’
The result, he says somewhat triumphantly, is that he has ‘bottled the feeling of being in the snow’.
Ruffini, while no less enthusiastic, is suitably measured in his praise for Vital’s design, which he feels reflects a deeply personal journey that is unique to the Alps and which is closely linked with Moncler’s own history. He is, to say the least, more than a little vindicated about giving ‘an artist with such a wide-spanning practice the framework of a bottle of water to tell a story. I like the idea of playing with the states of water for the bottle design.’ And that’s certainly something to drink to. §