Cartier has staged exhibitions across the world for decades, but this latest is the first with a focus on its contemporary creations from the 1970s onwards. With a vast curation of privately owned pieces typically hidden from the public eye, the exhibition explores the innovative world of Cartier through three perspectives, ‘material transformation and colors’, ‘forms and designs’, and ‘universal curiosity’.


The layout of the venue was designed by New Material Research Laboratory / Hiroshi Sugimoto + Tomoyuki Sakakida. Based on the principle that “old materials are new,” their design fuses traditional artisanal techniques with the latest technologies to create contemporary details. They have crafted an exhibition space that is navigated with a consciousness of ‘time’, proposing a new experience in the appreciation of the works. Original materials designed exclusively for this exhibition are used in the venue layout design. In the venue layout designed by NMRL, the designers used only solid materials – wood, stone, and glass, as well as custom fabrics developed in collaboration with Kawashima Selkon Textiles.


The exhibition proposes a new style of narrative communication between the pieces and visitors. To give visitors a more multidimensional understanding of the background and value that each individual piece possesses, the exhibition proposes a new ‘narrative communication’ experience with the assistance of the artist studio, THE EUGENE Studio. Described as “a venture in updating the mechanisms and structures of exhibitions themselves,” visitors are intuitively led through the three sections of the exhibition.


This section considers Cartier design from the perspective of the materials and colors in each individual piece. For example, platinum is used to highlight diamonds. Cartier’s unwavering commitment to the challenge of materials, combined with the new perspective on the materials proposed by NMRL in its layout design, serves as an expression of the future. 


This section explores Cartier’s visual pioneering spirit found in essential forms, such as lines and structures, using several keywords. In ‘Essential Lines’ and ‘Spheres’ the exhibition analyzes the ultimate forms that Cartier has explored over the course of many years, while ‘New Architectures’ and ‘Optics’ focus on the micro- architectural nature and movement concentrated in its jewelry. ‘Harmony in Chaos’ explores the perspectives that discover beauty by happenstance and the ideas that turn that very happenstance into design. ‘Beauty All Around’ looks at pieces that have emerged from items such as industrial products and parts for fashion accessories that would normally be considered as completely unrelated to the world of jewelry.


This final section exhibits works conceived from the universal curiosity that lies at the heart of Cartier design. Louis Cartier constantly scanned the world with an interest in all cultures and civilizations and gathered together a vast collection of artworks and materials. These collections became the source of inspiration for Cartier designs. Diverse cultures and natural objects merged with the times and evolved into Cartier’s unique and innovative designs.

Q: You’ve overseen many exhibitions for Cartier. Can you tell me what makes this one very different?

A: The scope of the exhibition is very different – it focuses on the last 40 years of Cartier’s production, which has never happened before. Most of the exhibitions stopped their representation of the work of Cartier from the 1970s.

Q: What was the process like, to track down all these pieces from private collectors?

A: First of all, I have to praise the work of the curators, because they didn’t work on the actual pieces. They worked on the documents about the pieces, because the pieces are outside Cartier, they are in the hands of private collectors, or collections in general. So we had to identify the different chapters and the different directions in terms of creation that Cartier had since the beginning of the ‘70s. After that, we produced a list of pieces that could be in the exhibition, and then started the hunt among our clients.

Q: How much time did this process take from beginning to end?

A: My first visit to this museum with the idea of this project was more than four years ago. That says a lot about the timing.

Q: If you had to choose your favorite piece, which would it be?

A: I couldn’t choose just one. Every piece is important in this exhibition, because the exhibition wouldn’t be possible with any other pieces than what has been selected. It would be less important, less relevant. And some of the pieces perhaps illustrate many different things in one. I would choose, for instance, the Panthère bracelet, because it’s Panthère. I would take also a mystery clock – probably the tiny one with the amethyst center, which says a lot about the principle and the evolution. From the big necklaces, I would pick the blue-and-green necklace, because it illustrates the blue and green in a very contemporary manner. I know, because I was there when we created it. The way it stays on the neck, you have a lace of platinum to hold it, and to allow all the alignments of the beads to stay in place and to move also at the same time.

Q: : Are there any pieces that have a particularly interesting story?

A: There’s one necklace that we bought just two months ago, a platinum necklace. It’s a recent discovery. I say ‘discovery’, because whatever knowledge of our production we might have within Cartier, we cannot pretend to know everything. This necklace was a discovery and it iterated perfectly the purpose of that section of the exhibition.

Q: In what ways do you think Cartier has changed through the years?

A: Cartier was born to change, or perhaps to evolve more than to change. That was a wish of its founder, Louis-François Cartier, more than a century ago, and we are faithful to his vision. So this exhibition shows that – it shows more than changes, [it shows] evolutions.

Q: What is one highlight of your time at Cartier?

A: I think if there’s an object which marks a crossroad of my own history with Cartier and with our shared basic principles of style, it would be the tank watch. It was my first Cartier watch. Long ago and long before joining Cartier, I always dreamt about that watch. I think it epitomizes the vision of purity and the sense of purity of Cartier.

Q: We instantly associate the color red with the brand. Can you tell us about the heritage there with the color? Was the color always a part of the brand’s DNA?

A: Well red comes from the box, of course, as most of the people now know, but in fact, the so-called red box wasn’t always only red. Until the end of the 19th century, it had the same pattern – the garland and the butterfly – but it also existed in black and also green. In fact, it’s only after the First World War that it became strictly red. Red is festive, is the color of passion, is the color of power. In China, it’s happiness and lucky also. I don’t know if all of those considerations were made at the time. Maybe, it was just aesthetics, and someone said, “Oh, I prefer red”, and that was it. Sometimes it’s very simple.