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Barbier-Mueller Brings Oceanic and African Masterpieces to the Met

by Susi, 26 May 2009


Some three dozen masterpieces of Oceanic and African sculpture from the Barbier-Mueller Museum (Geneva) will be shown at the Met in New York, from 2 June to 27 September. The exhibition, sponsored by Vacheron Constantin, reflects the extraordinary taste and astute judgement of the two individuals who amassed the entire Barbier-Mueller collection over a period spanning eight decades.


Vacheron Constantin’s involvement with the exhibition stems from an ongoing partnership with the Barbier-Mueller Museums. On the occasion of the Geneva museum’s 30th anniversary, the elite Swiss watchmaker launched their Les Masques collection, a group of four watches each with a mask from the Barbier-Mueller collection engraved in gold on the face (below).


In 2008, when the exhibition that’s opening at the Met next week opened at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, a second Masques collection of four more watches was launched (below). The original masks, and the watches, were exhibited at the opening.


Will a third set of Masques be launched next week at the Met? Or is the event just a sensible way to squeeze more mileage out of a good marketing partnership? I don’t much care for these watches, candidly, but I am impressed by the creativity of the Vacheron/Barbier PR strategists in creating such a unique partnership and playing it up with such panache. Fringe benefit for me: It lends a certain cachet to tribal art, and brings it to the attention of a moneyed audience.

What I really want to know is this. Does Jean-Paul Barbier wear a Les Masques wristwatch?

Images (from top): Kidumu mask, Republic of Congo, Barbier-Mueller collection; Kapkap forehead ornament, Western Solomon Islands, Barbier-Mueller collection (both images © Metropolitan Museum 2009); Vacheron Constantin 2007 Les Masques collection; Vacheron Constantin 2008 Les Massques collection (both images © Vacheron Constantin).

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