Robb Interview: Maurizio Cattelan

Bananas, duct tape and loads of confidence turned Cattelan into the art world’s merry prankster.

By Julie Belcove 02/07/2020

For all the fuss made over the exponential growth of the contemporary art world—fairs and biennials popping up around the globe, finance experts labelling art an “asset class,” hours-long lines for Yayoi Kusama’s psychedelic “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and other experiential, Instagram-worthy phenomena—a paltry few 21st-century artists have succeeded in permeating mainstream culture.

Sure, the pseudonymous Banksy made headlines when he rigged a picture frame to shred one of his paintings after the hammer fell at Sotheby’s, though the media coverage focused on the destruction of an expensive object—and its potential rise in value as a result.

You’ll recall in December, Maurizio Cattelan not only joined the ranks of household names when his latest piece appeared at Art Basel Miami Beach but got there by dint of the artwork itself. Outrageous, provocative, hilarious and anger-inducing, it forced its way under people’s skin. The piece consisted of nothing more than a yellow banana stuck to the wall with a strip of silver duct tape. That was it. Slyly titling the work Comedian, Cattelan let everyone in on the joke, sparking a sensation on social media, breathless coverage in the national press and enough hand-wringing among art critics to fuel PhD dissertations for decades to come. Was it a brilliant send-up of art as commodity and its sheep-like sycophants? Or an empty, even cynical gag?

Days later, a self-described performance artist peeled and ate the banana with a flourish in front of stunned onlookers, dubbing the ingestion Hungry Artist—and then held a press conference, milking every second of his viral infamy. (One of Cattelan’s gallerists, Emmanuel Perrotin, chose an art-historical analogy to liken it to – the numerous men who relieved themselves in Duchamp’s urinal, Fountain.) Eventually, the crowds queuing to snap selfies with the fruit-stand staple (the gallery had replacements on hand) necessitated the removal of the piece. Of course, Cattelan—and Perrotin—had the last laugh, selling the edition of three for six figures. The high-potassium wall hanging easily became the most talked-about artwork of the year.

Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan photographed in New York Photo by Chris Buck

Cattelan, 59, is no stranger to controversy—or to a brand of mischievous humour both within his art practice and intrinsic to his enigmatic persona. His oeuvre teeters uneasily between reality and fiction, including a lifelike sculpture of a prone Pope John Paul II, felled by a meteorite; a horse with its head plunged through a wall; and, darkest of all, a kneeling schoolboy-size figure of Hitler apparently praying, titled Him.

He once duct-taped an art dealer to a wall, suspending him a couple feet off the ground. Another time, at a loss for what to make, he locked the gallery door and hung a sign saying, “Be Right Back.”

When the Guggenheim Museum offered him a retrospective in 2011, he insisted on dangling virtually all of his entire life’s work from the ceiling of the soaring rotunda, a feat of engineering worthy of Richard Serra, to be sure, but a conceptual approach so unorthodox it induced apoplectic rages in some critics. The New Yorker’s esteemed Peter Schjeldahl ripped not only the exhibition design but also the contents: “[H]e doesn’t make art. He makes tendentious tchotchkes.”

For years early in his career, Cattelan dispatched his friend Massimiliano Gioni, now the respected artistic director of the New Museum, to stand in for him during interviews and lectures. Even in the 2016 documentary Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, Gioni masqueraded as Cattelan, who was occasionally glimpsed but not heard. (The art-world cognoscenti no doubt chuckled smugly at the inside joke.)

RR: How do I know it’s Maurizio responding?

MC: You don’t. But I promise I’ll try my best to let you believe this is me writing.

RR: Why did you want to do this interview by e-mail?

MC: Because I prefer to think twice before saying things I could regret.

RR: Where are you?

MC: Where I spend most of the time: at my desk, in front of my computer, standing. I found out the ideas flow better if you stay up on your feet.

RR: When and how did you come up with the concept for Comedian?

MC: There’s no big story behind it: I was playing with bananas for months, trying to figure out the best way to use it, either for a [photo] shooting or a work. I tried it in metal and plastic, but it never convinced me enough to be shown. I still have some not-satisfying tests on my apartment walls. Then I came out with the decision to simply present it as it is, instead of re-presenting it. And it worked well, much more than I would ever expect!

RR: The venue of Art Basel Miami Beach seemed essential. It’s the glitzy fair, with as many fashion people, celebrities and partiers as art collectors. Would you have made the work for any other venue? Why or why not?

MC: I often worked site-specifically, and this was one of those cases, as you correctly guessed. But I’ve always believed that, paradoxically, the most important aspect of a site-specific, well-conceived work is that it should also be effective outside the context for which it was created originally. I’m still wondering if going viral so extensively can be considered to be “outside a specific context.”

Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan photographed in New York Photo by Chris Buck

Conceptual artists from Sol LeWitt to Tino Sehgal have sold not objects but ideas, granting the collector or museum the right to re-create the artwork by following a set of precise instructions, which can be complex and highly specific or, as in the case of Comedian, almost comically simple. Many an arrogant fool has looked at a Jackson Pollock drip painting or an Ellsworth Kelly monochrome panel and thought, I could do that. But even the least artistically inclined or, frankly, dim-witted among us could follow Comedian’s official directions, which Cattelan relays: “Buy a yellow banana, stick it to the wall with grey duct tape.”

Maurizio Cattelan Comedian

Visitors to Art Basel Miami Beach in December taking a photo with “Comedian,” 2019. Sarah Cascone

Cattelan says he didn’t even go to Miami to see the fair firsthand. “Like everyone else,” he tells me, “I saw it from the internet, and I guess my reaction was very standard: amazed and a little bit confused.” Though there’s nothing to stop anyone from picking up a 20-cent banana and a roll of tape and DIYing it—and one could reasonably argue it would be in the practical-joking spirit of the artist to do so—at least three collectors coughed up $173,000 to $216,000 a pop for authentication papers.

RR: Did you intend Comedian as a comment on the collectors who would buy it?

MC: I was trying to understand something about me and the world I live in. That’s where all my works were born. I’m not able to think so much in advance, commenting on something or someone I don’t even know if it will ever exist, such as collectors buying it.

RR: John Baldessari said he sometimes awakened in a sweat worrying that he was just making “trinkets” for rich people. You, on the other hand, seem to have a comfort level with the commercial side of the art world, as when you helped install La Nona Ora [the pope piece] at Christie’s or accepted a commission from Peter Brant. How do you feel about collectors speculating on your artwork?

MC: Probably John put it in the best way already: Sometimes dreams become nightmares and vice versa.

Maurizio Cattelan La Nona Ora 1999

Cattelan’s papal installation “La Nona Ora,” 1999. Courtesy of the Artist, Marian Goodman Gallery and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin

Born in Padua, Italy, Cattelan grew up poor. He is self-taught and says art school “probably would have curbed my enthusiasm about being an artist.” As an almost purely conceptual artist, he conjures the idea for a piece but typically relies on fabricators to execute it (Comedian being an exception). He broke through by needling the art world much the way he did in Miami Beach, with a carefully conceived project that is easy to dismiss as a prank: He replaced the covers on scores of the influential Italian Flash Art magazine—coveted real estate for artists—with an image of his own “work,” a playing-card-style pyramid constructed of old Flash Art magazines. In another scheme, he solicited 100 donations of $100 each and offered to pay an artist not to make work for a year. When no artist took him up on the deal, he used the money to move to New York.

“I guess humour is relevant in every moment of life,” says Cattelan. “It is what saves you from taking yourself too seriously and keeps in mind where you came from.”

He may be a jester, but Cattelan is no fool. His goal in New York was to join Marian Goodman Gallery, one of the world’s preeminent galleries, known in particular for its daunting roster of intellectual Europeans, including Gerhard Richter, Thomas Struth and Giuseppe Penone. The first piece he showed there, in a 1997 summertime group exhibit, consisted of two tiny, taxidermied mice sitting in a lounge chair under a sun umbrella. He has been with the gallery ever since. “I don’t think of him as a prankster or a genius, but somewhere in between,” Goodman says. “He is a talented fellow.”

Posed the same choice—joker or genius—Amy Cappellazzo, chairman of fine art at Sotheby’s, firmly replies, “Genius. But both. Genius, though.” She calls Comedian “profound and simple and hysterical” and, comparing Cattelan to gnomes of German fairy tales and Italian buffoni, or buffoons, adds, “He’s a funny clown. But actually, he’s a genius.”

Cattelan quickly gained a reputation for provocation. Between the art-world-sanctioned antics and the flare for catching the spotlight, he captured a degree of fame that eluded nearly all his peers. Lacking the oddball otherness of Salvador Dalí or Andy Warhol, he became more the merry prankster. And as with any class clown, audience reaction—be it laughter or scolding—seemed essential to the performance.

Maurizio Cattelan Comedian

“Comedian,” 2019 Shutterstock

RR: What do you think about the reaction Comedian received?

MC: It was totally unexpected in its proportions and enthusiasm. It was also broadcasted on Good Morning America. I was shocked. My mother would have been proud, in the end.

RR: You once told me that the way a piece of yours is communicated to the public is an essential part of your creative process and the work’s existence. Did you conceive Comedian with the expectation it would go viral? Would you have considered the piece a failure if it hadn’t received the attention it did?

MC: I’m not good at this game, like let’s play that I was a princess and you were my horse. I always risk getting confused between fantasies and reality and start to believe I’m a princess or her horse.

RR: Were you surprised that someone ate Comedian, or were you waiting for someone to have the gall to do it? Did you see it as an act of admiration, appropriation, disrespect or something else?

MC: No, I wasn’t surprised. Comedian was gaining so much attention that it should have ended in a clamorous way. It has always happened in (art) history, and it still happens today: What shocks the audience is very often subject [to] acts of iconoclasm.

RR: Other works of yours have provoked “audience participation,” including the time two Polish lawmakers rolled the meteorite off the “Pope” and when a Milanese man climbed a tree (and fell) in an effort to cut down your sculptures of children hanging from a limb. Are you trying to push viewers to that level of discomfort or outrage?

MC: I believe art should change your life. You should not remain the same in front of it. Of course, I’m speaking of masterpieces, like the Sistine Chapel or the Cappella degli Scrovegni. That said, I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic reaction, and it’s always fascinating for me to see how seriously an artwork can affect people’s imagination, till the point you almost mistake it for reality.

Maurizio Cattelan Guggenheim

Cattelan’s oeuvre hanging in the rotunda of the Guggenheim for his retrospective in 2011-12. David Heald

When the Guggenheim proposed a retrospective—a dreamed-of career highlight in the minds of most artists—Cattelan’s reputation for subversiveness precluded an ordinary museum installation in the manner of piece, wall text, piece, wall text. In her appearance in Be Right Back, Guggenheim artistic director and chief curator Nancy Spector, who organised the show, says “the whole point” of Cattelan’s decision to suspend his art from the ceiling was to be “disrespectful.” Cattelan takes issue with that assessment. “Preparing the retrospective was like writing an autobiography,” he tells me. “From my point of view, that massive hanging was an act of necessary violence to break away from my works and see them in a less sentimental light.”

Just as the presentation stunned, so did his very public announcement that he would cease art-making after the retrospective, at the age of 51. The retirement was short-lived. He returned five years later with America, a solid-gold, functioning toilet, which he installed in a bathroom at the Guggenheim. The lines for the loo snaked down the museum’s iconic ramp. Last year, during a solo exhibition at Blenheim Palace in the UK, the stately birthplace of Winston Churchill, America was stolen. The theft of an object easily seen as a symbol for capitalist greed raised enough eyebrows that Cattelan denied he had engineered its disappearance.

Installation view of America, 2016, by Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace 2019

Installation view of “America,” 2016 Tom Lindboe/Courtesy of Blenheim Art Foundation

RR: When the Trump White House requested to borrow a van Gogh from the Guggenheim, Nancy Spector famously offered to loan it America instead. I imagine she consulted you before making the offer. Were you disappointed the White House did not take you up on it?

MC: Nancy is a great curator, with a really sharp mind. She has the right to propose any work from the Guggenheim collection that would have been available, without consulting me at all. I would have been honoured for my work to be shown outside the museum, in such a prestigious place as the White House.

RR: How do you feel about the theft of America the sculpture? Do you harbour any hope for its return?

MC: I only hope that whoever took it is enjoying it! Seriously, I have been feeling like being a movie character all the time since it happened.

RR: Do you see Comedian and America as linked—one solid gold, the other a cheap banana that will rot within days, but both addressing the value of art?

MC: A work of art is never just the artist’s individual experience, but rather the thing it is in the world. It is a moral, social and practical identity, a being that is recognised by, and relates to, others. It is not merely a physical object but a social one, too. And the more it has meaning for others than the artist, the more it is relevant. So I totally trust you about it.

After Art Basel Miami Beach finished its annual run, the hoopla died down as hoopla inevitably does, replaced on home pages and Twitter feeds with coverage of the Democratic presidential primaries and, ominously, steadily increasing reports about the novel coronavirus stealthily creeping around the globe. Cattelan was left, like every artist after finishing a piece, alone with his thoughts.

RR: Are you at all concerned that Comedian gives people who already suspect contemporary art is a load of BS more ammunition to mock it?

MC: I think it’s important to keep a discussion always open about what is art, what it should do and its ethical value, much more than its economic value. My hope is that for every [person] that thinks that art is bullshit, there’ll be one that can explain to them where the real value is.

RR: What’s next?

MC: Forecasts are less and less reliable, and so am I.

RR: You’ve been called a con man and one of the greatest artists of our time. Which is it? Is it possible to be both?

MC: It is possible to be many things. My barber always says: “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

RR: Is it hard to keep one-upping yourself?

MC: It’s a daily job.


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The Finer Things

Shimmering with gold, diamonds and precious stones, these women’s watches represent the pinnacle of haute horology. Just look at them…

By Belinda Aucott-christie And Josh Bozin 16/07/2024

Bulgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, Piaget, Chopard and Cartier were among the prestige brands to unveil women’s novelties at this year’s Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva. Here we review some of our favourites, including a new style from Bulgari who impressed via an artistic collaboration with architect Tadao Ando and Chanel whose latest bobbin cuff was inspired by a spool of thread.


Tadao Ando Serpenti

The brand’s collaboration with lauded Japanese architect Tadao Ando artfully remixes the enduring Serpenti Tubogas model. The collection celebrates the four seasons; pictured here is the Summer (natsu) with a two-tone, yellow-gold-and-steel bracelet and a green aventurine dial. $27,600. Availability on request;


Lady Arpels Brise d’Été 

The maison’s Poetic Complications novelties ensure that telling the time becomes a spectacle. On this occasion, the flowers on the dial blossom and close in a randomised pattern at the touch of a button. Van Cleef & Arpels’ latest lesson in horological theatre was four years in development, with the dial alone taking 40 hours to master. Price and availability on request;


Bobbin Cuff Couture

Playing on the vintage “secret” watches of the 1920s, the Bobbin Cuff Couture was inspired aesthetically by a spool of thread. The idiosyncratic jewellery-watch is crafted entirely in 18-karat yellow gold, set with rows of brilliant-cut diamond “threads” and a 17-carat emerald-cut sapphire that hides the watch face. Price and availability on request.


Limelight Gala Precious 

At 26 mm, a timepiece that captures the poise and elegance that has come to define Piaget’s jewellery watches. Now, with the inclusion of 38 brilliant-cut diamonds, the 18-karat rose gold “Decor Palace” dial and matching bracelet, this Limelight Gala is arguably the best of a collection that interweaves art, design and jewellery, with an emphasis on beauty. Around $118,500. Availability on request;


L’Heure  Du Diamant Round 

Chopard showcases its smarts in the art of diamond setting. Here, the maison’s artisans have orchestrated an amalgamation of contemporary design and alluring precious stones. The green malachite dial is a standout feature, as is the Chopard MD29 hand-wound mechanical movement. Price and availability on request;


La Panthère de Cartier

From one of the brand’s most symbolic collections, this iteration of the Panthère de Cartier watch is designed in a rhodium-finish white gold case set with 136 brilliant-cut diamonds, and a rhodium-finish white gold panther head set with 297 brilliant-cut diamonds. The striking, pear-shaped eyes are crafted from emerald. Price and availability on request;

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Marc Newson Has Designed Everything from Pens to Superyachts … Now He Wants to Go to Space

On the heels of a new career-spanning book, the industrial designer and Apple alum shares his ultimate design project.

By Lee Carter 16/07/2024

Sporting shades, Marc Newson reclines on a sunny terrace of his Greek island retreat. If he appears exultant, he has every reason to be. Devoting his life’s work to elevating everyday objects into items we covet, Newson has become one of the most sought-after industrial designers in the world.

Case in point, Newson has just returned from Salone del Mobile, the sprawling design fair in Milan, where he launched a colossal book about his equally colossal career, signing copies for devoted fans barely able to lift it.

Over 400 pages, the monograph chronicles Newson’s nearly four decades in design from his start as a jewelry major at Sydney College of the Arts to producing avant-garde furnishings to now crafting luxury speed boats for Riva and even a concept plane in an art project for the Fondation Cartier. All told, Marc Newson: Works 84–24 (Taschen) is a testament to his tireless pursuit of perfection.

Asked to reflect on 40 years of soaring success, the Australian designer all but blushes—or perhaps it’s the Mediterranean sun. “When I look at my own work,” he says, “particularly in the context of a document that begins and ends, it almost feels like I’m reading about someone else.” After all, he demurs, he’s only doing his job. “The core of my occupation is troubleshooting [and] problem-solving. I apply the same rigor, process, and rules to every project, whether it’s a pen or a mega-yacht.”

Marc Newson’s Horizon luggage, designed for Louis Vuitton, and his Orgone chair demonstrate the importance he puts on curves. Taschen

The Newson look is aesthetically niche, but touches almost every sector, from fashion to household goods. It’s bold yet pragmatic, sumptuous yet futuristic, reverential yet iconoclastic. A transparent timepiece for Jaeger-LeCoultre, a sensuously curved cognac bottle for Hennessy, and a sleek aluminum luggage collaboration with Louis Vuitton (the latest of which just appeared in Pharrell Williams’s spring 2025 collection) all point to a singular, forward-looking vision. Or how about the katana sword he created in 2019 with a ninth-generation master swordsmith in Japan? He calls the tradition and sophistication required to execute that work “unfathomable, almost alchemical, practically spiritual.”

Two decades ago, in 2004, he created the Zvezdochka sneaker for Nike. Modelled entirely on a computer and made from a single piece of injection-molded resin, the footwear—named after the 1961 rocket-riding Russian dog—was intended for astronauts to wear during their daily exercises in zero gravity. As Newson notes, “Where else would you need the perfect sneakers but running on a treadmill in space?”

Newson’s groundbreaking Lockheed Martin Chaise.

From the beginning, Newson—who helped lead Apple’s design department, and the development of key products such as the Apple Watch, for five years—has always possessed the unusual ability to bend ideas about design to his will. His Lockheed Lounge, a shapely chaise pieced together from curved aluminum panels, became an instant phenomenon with its 1988 introduction. Named for its resemblance to the early aeronautical stylings of Lockheed Martin, the furniture piece bucked the reductive ethos of modern design at the time. In 2006, it broke the record for the highest price paid at auction for the work of a living designer, topping that price 11 years later in 2015, going for $3.7 million at Phillips London.

Around the turn of the millennium, Newson—a vintage sports car enthusiast who once flew to the U.S. to purchase a 1959 Aston Martin DB4 with the entirety of a paycheck—shifted gears to focus his energies on the transportation sector. Asked by Ford to jot down some concepts, he came up with the 021C in 1999. A radically simplified three-box configuration, the model had a main cabin, hood, and trunk; the latter two sections were mirror images.

The Ford 021C, which Newson claimed caused “a lot of head-scratching” at the American car company.

“It was utterly ridiculous and childlike,” Newson says of the design with a laugh. “There was a lot of head-scratching [at Ford], but I reasoned that since I’m not an automotive designer, I don’t want to and can’t play the typical automotive games.” Thanks to the support of Ford’s “brilliantly curious and open” top brass, the cartoon of a car became a drivable reality and a beloved Newson fan favorite. Soon after the release of the 021C, the Australian airline Qantas came knocking, seeking Newson’s design eye for a variety of projects, including the interiors of its airport lounges and, more challengingly, the invention of a fully horizontal bed for its premier passengers on long-haul flights. No small feat of imagination, this triumph led to his appointment as the company’s creative director.

The Qantas Skybed, designed for the Australian airline’s long-haul flights. Qantas

As Newson’s fame ascended, so did the demand for his work—in the design industry and beyond. New York gallerist Larry Gagosian was quick to add the maverick designer to his roster of art stars, such as Jeff Koons, Richard Serra, and Michael Heizer, and in 2007, he mounted Newson’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., featuring a limited-edition, experimental furniture series. “The stuff I do with Gagosian is not exactly mainstream design,” Newson says. “They’re these sort of rarefied follies [or] crazy experiments that I concoct. I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself—and perhaps Larry.” One object in the exhibition was a nickel surfboard with a storied lineage. “I wanted the prototype to be tested by [professional big wave surfer] Garrett McNamara,” Newson recalls. “He took the board to a Pacific island notorious for its huge swells on top of a coral reef. He actually lost the board in the waves and was driving back to his hotel when he saw a local with this tangled mass of metal under his arm. The story goes that the Mir space station had plummeted into the ocean the day before, and this guy thought he had found pieces from the crash. He had no idea it was a crushed surfboard.”

Is there a project he has yet to tackle? “Every time I think I’m at the end of the list,” he says, smiling, “I think of something new.” Space, for instance. “I would love to work more extensively in the area of space exploration. That is something I continue to find compelling and fascinating. It ticks all the boxes for me in terms of engaging with technology, incredible processes, and modern materials. And, of course, I would love to go to space. That’s the end game.”

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Piaget Just Dropped a Colourful High-Jewellery Line with 1970s Style

“Essence of Extraleganza,” a fusion of the words extravagance and elegance, is a tour de force of haute joaillerie that celebrates Piaget’s 150th year.

By Victoria Gomelsky 16/07/2024

Long before Piaget was a jeweller, it was a watchmaker. The luxury brand traces its roots to La Côte-aux-Fées, a village in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where Georges-Édouard Piaget founded a movement-making company in 1874.

In 1959, the maison introduced jewellery for the first time, showcasing its creations at the new Salon Piaget in Geneva. Almost immediately, the brand established itself as a trendsetter across both realms.


Proof that the watchmaker-turned-jeweller continues to occupy the most rarefied precincts of the luxury trade arrived last month, when Piaget unveiled its “Essence of Extraleganza” high jewellery collection. The third and arguably most spectacular of the brand’s 150th anniversary product introductions (following the reboot in February of its Piaget Polo 79 timepiece and the April unveiling of the thinner-than-thou Altiplano Ultimate Concept Flying Tourbillon), the collection of 96 jewels and bejewelled timepieces is a tour de force of craftsmanship and gem-setting that bears an explicit connection to Piaget’s roots in jewellery.

“Of our three major launches this year to date, none of them have just been a launch — each and every one of them has hinged on a product, a story, a saga bringing the past and present together,” Benjamin Comar, CEO of Piaget, tells Robb Report.


“So of course, this high jewellery collection had to bring more density than a regular collection. And this is why it’s called ‘Essence of Extraleganza’ — because through these 96 pieces, Piaget’s artistic director, Stéphanie Sivrière, went back to the Piaget DNA, to the moment when Piaget evolved from watchmaker to jeweller, to the decisive moment where this Swiss maison decided to revolutionise the watch world by imagining a new avant-garde vocabulary, filled with colours, textures and gold: the 21st Century Collection.”

That collection, introduced in 1969, included an array of jewellery watches that reimagined how to wear time. From metal bracelets with a fabric-like texture to swinging sautoirs, the pieces were bold, colourful and utterly of the moment.


Three years ago, when Sivrière began working on what would become Essence of Extraleganza, she took her inspiration from those heritage designs of the 1960s and ’70s. The result is a stunning lineup of bold, cheerful and wildly original jewels, including highlights such as a necklace featuring a fiery cascade of trapezoid-cut carnelians set in rose gold and centered on a 21.23-carat cushion-cut spessartite garnet; a cuff watch loaded with 26.11 carats of baguette-cut Colombian emeralds; and a suite of blue-on-blue designs including a V-shaped necklace set with sapphires, tourmalines, and marquise-cut aquamarines surrounded by opals, turquoise and diamonds, along with a matching ring and pair of mismatched earrings.


“Stephanie chose to highlight the couture inspiration of Piaget and paid homage to our chainmaker skills as a golden thread throughout the collection,” Comar says. “This was very impressive to witness unravelling in front of our eyes week after week. The carnelian necklace, for instance, was created like a never-ending puzzle: first the mesh structure completely hand-woven, then every hue and piece identified by a number and patiently assembled to create this mix-and-match yet balanced effect.”

The throughline that connects the 2024 collection to the one introduced 55 years earlier is, undoubtedly, Piaget’s willingness to embrace modernity while employing traditional techniques in service of timeless designs.

“Piaget’s jewellery style is still coherent and that’s the beauty of it,” Comar says. “When Valentin Piaget asked his Swiss designers in the early Sixties to go to Paris in order to attend a couture show and get inspired by this fashion revolution (think Cardin, Courrèges, Twiggy) this was so incredibly new for the time. And today, when we look at their past gouaches where they would create the swinging sautoirs directly on the glossy pages of the fashion magazines to really picture what this woman would be wearing today, it’s so modern. And still has the same effect today: timeless yet modern. That is the Piaget paradox.”

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Bay Watch 

After losing its lustre for decades, Sydney’s Double Bay is undergoing a renaissance. And with harbour views, lush parks and a friendly village feel, it’s no wonder luxury developments are flourishing.

By Horacio Silva 16/07/2024

The boarded storefronts on the strip of New South Head Road in Double Bay currently under construction near Cross Street are plastered with archival images of the harbourside suburb in its 1960s and 1970s heyday. In the grainy black-and-white images, passers-by dressed in their imported European finery inhabit the bustling streets and fashionable shopping destinations of the time, including Mark Foy’s department store on Knox Street and the chic boutiques of Claire Handler, Maria Finlay and Nellie Vida—three Hungarian expats who sourced the latest trends from the Continent for style-starved locals. 

The images serve as a reminder of an era when European designers dictated the style for modish Australians. They’re also a document of how much this prestigious enclave, located 11 minutes’ drive from the CBD and a snow-cone’s throw from some of Sydney’s best beaches, has changed.

The area’s once-thriving boutiques are a thing of the past, replaced by all manner of beauty-focused establishments. Gone too are the open-air dances in Steyne Park, the old Hoyts Theatre (an Art Deco gem of a building on the main drag that was the nexus of the community) and the illegal casino a few doors down from it called the Double Bay Bridge Club.

Which is not to say that this once-sleepy hollow, whose fortunes have ebbed and flowed in the last 50 years, has become the profligate relic that detractors, who pilloried it as “Double Pay”, predicted it would become after it fell from favour over the past few decades. Far from it. “There’s only one Double Bay,” says Angela Belle McSweeney, director of Australian Turf Club and a former public relations maven whose office was located for years on Knox Street, above the famed 21 restaurant.  “In terms of Australian glamour, it’s always been the benchmark and now more than ever.”

Joseph Hkeik, the owner of All Saint Clinic, which caters to the taut skin of the city’s high society, concurs. “There really is something palpable in the air,” says Hkeik, who is in as good a position as any to talk about the changing face of the place.

“A lot is happening, and everyone wants to be seen in Double Bay. It’s the hotspot of Sydney.”

All Saint Clinic

If Double Bay is once again the talk of the town, it’s in no small part due to chef and restaurateur Neil Perry. After stepping away in early 2020 as founder of the Rockpool Group, through which he created legendary restaurants such as Rockpool and Spice Temple, Perry resurfaced a few months later with plans to start anew on the prized willow-festooned corner of Bay Street and Guilfoyle Avenue. In June 2021, he opened his award-winning seafood restaurant Margaret, and soon after, the adjacent bar Next Door and the Baker Bleu bakery two premises along.

He has not looked back. The fat cats today may be younger than the potentates who used to frequent the area’s old stamping grounds like George’s and the Hunter’s Lodge, and the ladies who lunch are more “wind-swept” than their pre-Botox predecessors, but the Lamborghinis and Ferraris parked nearby suggest that this is once again where the elite meet to eat.

“It is definitely going through a renaissance,” says Perry of his new domain, “but I honestly think it’ll be more than a passing moment. Double Bay has the beautiful parks and waterfront, and for all the glitz it also has that village atmosphere close to the city that everyone wants. And there is so much investment in the place.” That’s somewhat of an understatement.

Originally earmarked to be the site of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens when it was settled in the 1820s, the suburb remains as green as ever, but these days it’s hard to see the trees for all the construction cranes. 

On Bay Street alone, real estate powerhouse Fortis has broken ground on mixed-use properties that are among the city’s most hotly anticipated new addresses. Of the new developments, perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Ruby House, a luxury five-storey strata office block on the corner of New South Head Road and Bay Street, due for completion in early 2025. A collaboration of luminaries, including Lawton Hurley as lead architects and interiors by Woods Bagot, Ruby House will offer a range of sun- dappled office spaces, ranging from 60–550 m², with starting prices around $3 million. The ground floor will feature retail spaces, as well as three best-in-class restaurants, adding more culinary heft to a street that already includes Bibo, Matteo and Tanuki.

Ruby House

“Our vision for Double Bay is to bring life back into this once-great suburb,” says Charles Mellick, director of Fortis, “and to create a vibrant precinct that is seen as the most sought-after neighbourhood in Sydney, if not all of Australia.” Big call, indeed. And yet take a stroll along the suburb’s verdant paths and suddenly Mellick’s words do not feel so hyperbolic. A few doors down from Ruby House, 24 Bay St is slated to open this August in the heritage- listed modernist masterpiece, Gaden House, designed by Neville Gruzman, a former Mayor of Woollahra and one of Sydney’s most influential 20th-century architects. Fortis is also teaming with architects Lawton Hurley on the building, which will house Song Bird, Neil Perry’s (does this man ever sleep?) new three-storey, 230-seat Cantonese restaurant. Underground will be the speakeasy Bobbie’s, helmed by Linden Pride of Caffe Dante in New York, voted best bar in the world in 2019. 

“Double Bay used to have two of the best Chinese restaurants in the city,” says Perry, referring to the defunct Cleveland and Imperial Peking. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with Song Bird so it’s going to be great to continue that tradition.”

Across the street at 19-27 Bay Street, the first flagship RH Gallery, formerly Restoration Hardware, is also under construction. A five-level commercial building, opening in late 2025, it will house bespoke luxury home furnishings and a rooftop restaurant not unlike the company’s jumping location in New York’s Meatpacking District. Meanwhile, a few blocks over on Cross Street, Ode—a luxury tower developed by Top Spring Australia—is slated to open in 2025 next to the InterContinental Hotel (itself recently sold and being reimagined to include top-floor apartments and retail). Designed by Luigi Rosselli Architects, Ode’s 15 spacious residences and penthouses, with shimmering harbour views, are being eagerly contested by the one percent, with two of the three penthouses already being bought off-plan for $21.5 and $24.9 million.

Ode, Double Bay

For all the positivity, and dollars, swirling around the suburb, there is no cast-iron guarantee that these new commercial opportunities will help rekindle the moribund boutique scene and return Double Bay to its former fashionable standing. It’s been a while since Claire Handler and her Hungarian cohorts made cash registers sing.

As such, not everyone is convinced about the suburb’s supposed rebirth. “The rents in this area are astronomical as it is,” says Tony Yeldham, the legendary menswear impresario who opened his Squire Shop for discerning gentlemen as a teenager in 1956. “It’s going to be near impossible for smaller players to stay alive, but I’ve seen this area go through so many ups and downs so I’m hopeful if sceptical.” For the most part, the locals remain sanguine about the area’s potential, with one proviso. As Joseph Hkeik explains, “We just need these lovely builders to finish up so we can all get some peace and quiet.”

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Parmigiani Fleurier Just Dropped 3 New Perfectly Sized Tonda Watches

The growing demand for smaller watches isn’t slowing down, and these new models from Parmigiani are on trend.

By Cait Bazemore 16/07/2024

For the past several years, we’ve seen a growing trend of smaller watches. According to veteran dealer Matthew Bain, 36 mm to 38 mm is the ideal watch size, and it seems many collectors agree as the demand for smaller watches continues to grow. The trend goes beyond proportions and is part of a bigger movement toward more accessible and inclusive watches for all wrists, regardless of gender. This push reflects a growing prominence of female watch collectors like Lung Lung Thun who told Robb Report this week that she desires more watches in the 34 to 37 mm range. In response, countless brands have been reimagining some of their most iconic models with smaller proportions, from Chopard’s 36 mm Alpine Eagle to Breitling’s 36 mm Navitimer. At this year’s Watches & Wonders, it was even a tiny Cartier Tank measuring just 24 mm x 16.5 mm that stole the show.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF 36 mm in Rose Gold with Sand Gold Dial and Diamond Accents. Parmigiani Fleurier.

Parmigiani Fleurier is a brand who is no stranger to creating more modestly sized timepieces with consideration for all wrists and all genders. The brand first launched its Tonda PF collection in 2021 with a larger 42 mm model. A year later, they updated the line with a 36 mm Tonda PF, which went on to win the Women’s Watch Prize at the GPHG. This smaller version was so successful, Parmigiani added a 36 mm two-tone variation for the first time just last year. Now, we get three new 36 mm versions of the Tonda PF Automatic in new dial and metal combinations and with the addition of gem setting.

Tonda PF 36 mm in three new distinct styles.
Today, Parmigiani has unveiled three new takes on it’s perfectly proportioned Tonda PF: one in rose gold with a sand gold dial and diamond accents priced at $125.400, one in rose gold with a warm grey dial and diamond accents priced at $101,471, and one in two-tone stainless steel and rose gold with a white citrine dial and a more subtle touch of diamonds just on the hour markers priced at $50,662.
Tonda PF 36 mm in Two-Tone with White Citrine Dial and Diamond Accents
Parmigiani Fleurier

For each version, you get the classic curves of the Tonda PF you know and love with sweet-spot 36 mm sizing, and it’s loaded with Parmigiani’s automatic PF770 manufacture movement with a 60-hour power reserve. For the rose gold iterations, there’s a bit more bling with diamonds on the indices, bezel, and bracelet for the sand gold dial and diamonds on the indices and bezel of the warm gray dial. With each of the new 36 mm Tonda PF watches, the brand has used fully traceable and ethically sourced gold and diamonds.

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