Audemars Piguet endeavours to impress visitors to the Yuz Museum in Shanghai with its most ambitious exhibition ever held abroad. The exhibition features more than 200 watches complemented by specially commissioned contemporary artworks.

The exhibition, titled “To Break The Rules You Must First Master Them”, is housed within a circular copper shell divided into 12 rooms – a nod to the 12 hour markers found on a watch’s dial.

Each room has its own unique theme, from origins – which also features a large family tree taking up one side of the wall – to a dial-making workshop. A room also pays homage to the history and evolution of the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet’s most iconic design to date.  

A highlight of the exhibition is the giant replica of an actual rock found at Vallee de Joux – the maison’s birthplace – and made using a casting technique employed by archaeologists. Also on display are rare vintage watches that have made milestones in the maison’s history, including a grand complication pocket watch made by Jules Louis Audemars, one of the founders, as a graduation project to mark the end of his apprenticeship in 1875.

Adhering to the maison’s commitment to art, the exhibition also features works by contemporary artists: a video installation titled “Circadian Rhythm” by Chinese artist Cheng Ran, a series of beautiful still photography by Dan Holdsworth, and a sonic installation titled “Wild Constellations” that doubles as speakers.

The exhibition will run until November 13 at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, after which it will travel to Dubai next year.

Q&A with Cheng Ran

At the invitation of Audemars Piguet, Cheng Ran spent a summer at Vallee de Joux soaking up the atmosphere while also filming on location. The end product is a video artwork titled “Circadian Rhythm”, where Cheng expertly manipulates light, sounds, and visuals to stir up a deep emotional response from the audience. His video art can be viewed in Room XII.

Can you explain a little about the meaning behind your video artwork?

The video is about Vallee de Joux, which is very important to Audemars Piguet because it is the birthplace of the watch company. I tried to immerse myself into the environment. I used light to create a kind of rhythm. The rhythm is not just like the rhythm of the watch, but also the rhythm of time – of day and night – and also the rhythm of a human being. [Working with AP] helped me rethink the importance and the significance of time.

Your video artwork seems reflective of your usual style, where a linear narrative structure is almost always absent. How does this video fit into that?

There is no story [structure], no linear narrative in this artwork. The image itself contains the emotions. Like time, there is no beginning, no end in a particular image.

How do you identify yourself as an artist?

For me, although the art form I work on is new media and art, I identify myself as a traditional artist. By ‘traditional’ I mean that technology is not the most important part [of my work]. Rather, the thinking and the idea in the works and the historical heritage and cultural inheritance that I can show and demonstrate within the work [is important].

How do you feel about re-visting Vallee de Joux – but during the wintertime?

In wintertime, because the weather is very bad [and forces people to spend their time indoors] the watchmakers could focus on the watchmaking process. So I think the wintertime is exactly the time for an awakening of the internal mind. I will [also] shoot videos [during my time there]. 

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