Based on the belief that art is a continuum, Rolex launched its Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative in 2002 to assist in generational knowledge sharing between the world’s greatest artists. Artistic leaders are paired with emerging artists, giving them time to learn, create, and grow. The program exemplifies Rolex’s long-standing dedication to individual excellence.
From its earliest days, Rolex has had a deep commitment to global arts and culture. Founder Hans Wilsdorf, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, had a goal of fostering excellence, performance, and continuous improvement in everything Rolex does. Transmission of knowledge is a cornerstone of the company–whether in watchmaking or its support for the arts and culture.
Younger artists of exceptional promise (the protégés) are provided with an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with globally recognized masters in a variety of disciplines (the mentors). Today, the fields highlighted in the program include architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theatre, and visual arts. There is also a variable “open category” that allows for mentorship to take place in fields outside of those listed. Mentors and proteges are asked to interact for a minimum of six weeks, though many spend considerably more time together during the mentoring year.
Every two years, a new advisory board of distinguished artists and arts practitioners suggests and endorses potential mentors, who, once selected, are asked to develop a profile of the type of protégé they would like to work with. Young artists cannot apply directly to the program. Instead, Rolex assembles a nominating panel for each discipline, and members identify suitable protégé candidates. After the candidates’ applications have been received, the panel selects three finalists. The mentor is asked to meet the finalists and select the protégé.
Over nearly two decades, the Rolex Arts Initiative has evolved into a community of artists embracing different generations, cultures, and disciplines. To date, over 50 of the world’s greatest artists have served as mentors to an equal number of protégés.
For most, their experience with this program has been life-changing. Participants on both sides have deepened their knowledge of the discipline, liberated their thinking, and boosted their confidence. Outcomes have included, amongst many others, a new novel, a new stage production, a career dancing with the mentor’s company, and a collaborative artwork between mentor and protégé.
In March this year, Rolex announced four world-renowned innovators as the 2020-2021 Arts Initiative mentors: American filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd (Theatre); American composer, lyricist, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda (Open Category); and American visual artist Carrie Mae Weems (Visual Arts). Each will spend two years in close collaboration with an outstanding young artist of their choice, exchanging ideas and transmitting artistry.
The Weems-Rodriguez pairing is especially promising. Carrie Mae Weems’s prolific output through image and text, film video, and performance is informed by interactions with individuals across a multitude of disciplines. She delves into complex human experiences, including sexism, racism, and class.
Her highly acclaimed works are exhibited at major institutions throughout the world.
Similarly, to the themes explored by her mentor, Colombian filmmaker and visual artist, Camila Rodríguez Triana, uses her works to portray intimate relationships in everyday spaces. Her art has been exhibited in solo and group shows in South America and Europe. As the founder of Heka Films SAS, Triana has been responsible for several acclaimed documentary features that explore the limits between documentary and fiction.
“We at Rolex have been privileged that, or nearly two decades, dozens of the most genre-defining artists have lent their time and expertise to the Arts Initiative,” said Rebecca Irvin, program director. “The four new mentors who join the initiative’s community of creative greats have broken new ground in their respective fields and we look forward to the impact they will have on their protégés, as they pass on their devotion to their art in this cross-generational exchange.”
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