For centuries, the form of the snake has intrigued and inspired the worlds of art, jewellery and design.
This fascinating creature epitomises seduction, rebirth and transformation.
It’s no wonder it is being honoured through paintings, sculptures, installation art, costumes and Bulgari heritage jewellery at SerpentiForm, an ongoing exhibition by Bulgari. Following the success of the Rome edition, held in 2016, the exhibition is currently at Singapore’s ArtScience Museum on a larger scale.
One of the first things to catch your eye upon entering the exhibition is a 70m installation featuring 500 video-mapped scales and floating Serpenti creations running along the walls of the venue.
This captivating feature follows visitors through the exhibition halls, as precious antiquities and modern art from the East and the West examine the different symbolic meaning of snakes in myths and legends.
For decades Bulgari has captured the expressive power of the evocative symbol, reinterpreting it in jewellery with supple bracelet-watches that have established themselves as icons of its bold creativity.
The serpent vision in modern and contemporary art emerges with works by leading artists. These include Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Keith Haring, Niki de Saint Phalle, Joana Vasconcelos, Heri Dono, Motohiko Odani, Wu Jian’an and masters of photography like Robert Mapplethorpe and Helmut Newton.
At the exhibition’s recent official launch, Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin and Bulgari brand and heritage curator Lucia Boscaini were joined by Academy Award-winning actress Alicia Vikander.
Prior to the press conference, Babin spared a few minutes to chat about his thoughts and feelings about the event.
“I’ve been so amazed and surprised by how different it is,” said Babin, referring to last year’s exhibition in Rome.
“Last year’s exhibition was more Western, more European culture; this exhibition is truly East and West, a bit like Singapore is a cross of cultures, traditions, celebrations,” explained Babin. “Out of 150 art pieces on display, maybe 30-40 are from Roma and some are new to me, I have to confess some painters I didn’t know and I gladly discovered.
“It’s amazing and I see it as a new chapter in the Serpenti legend. This is the second one and the theme itself, the more we research it, the more we dig, it’s limitless in terms of inspiration; and for the brand, it’s not only a great cultural discovery but also a source of inspiration for the next decade in terms of jewelmaking.”
Babin was impressed by the antique statues from second century China, as well as a piece titled The White Snake hid immediately by Wu Jian’ An.
“When you’re a jeweller, you love the beauty of the shape itself and you worship the detail of every single part, like a grand complication watch, and this masterpiece really combines those two dimensions. It has a wonderful overall grace of the design of the snake and then when you get closer you discover through the paper cuts, the detail and refinement. Details, which when combined together, give birth to a giant snake.”
Among the statues, paintings, installation art pieces and dresses inspired by the serpent, the exhibition has dedicated a section to heritage jewellery.
Serpenti bracelet watches, earrings, necklaces and accessories gleam under the spotlights, their enduring beauty a tribute to the expert craftsmanship that put them together.
“Art is our expertise in terms of diamond cutting, gemsetting, and innovation is in the way we combine them. A lot of our jewels are articulated from the snake itself, which has to wrap around your wrist or your neck,” said Babin, explaining how the curve of a Serpenti bracelet watch is a complex mechanism due to the careful use of springs.
To wrap up the ancient meets modern theme, another highlight of the SerpentiForm exhibition is the Design your Serpenti web app. Visitors will be able to design a personalised Serpenti creation and see it projected in the exhibition space.
Visitors will be further engaged by an augmented reality experience that will allow them to discover “hidden” digital artwork in a dedicated area.
The exhibition is open to the public at ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, until October 15, 2017. For more information, visit serpentiform.bulgari.com.