MAD Gallery’s artful homage to classic cars and mechanical engineering

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The 2015 watch fair season is about to kick off, with the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) opening its doors in Geneva on 19 January. As well as the latest designs from major marques, including Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet, the week will unfold to reveal the usual flurry of fringe events, independent brand shows and a gem of an exhibition at MAD Gallery (Mechanical Art Devices).

Established by MB&F in Geneva’s Vieille Ville four years ago, the space acts as a showcase for the maverick watch brand’s own ‘horological machines’ as well as those working in other disciplines.

The quirky nature of mechanical design is increasingly reflected in MAD’s curatorial style, made all the more interesting in that it is propelled by a future vision, hence it’s showing of Air Drive. French photographer Renaud Marion’s beautifully eerie ‘flying’ car series is perfectly in line with MB&F’s obsession with bringing the ideals of old-school machinery and engineering into the modern era.

Charris Yadigaroglou
Charris Yadigaroglou

 ‘Growing up in the 1980s, I imagined the new millennium with flying cars, spaceships, parallel worlds, extra-terrestrials living with us on earth and time travel,’ says Marion of the project. ‘We would have all been dressed up in space outfits and equipped with laser pistols.’

Inspired by the landspeeder from Star Wars and the intricately drawn flying machines of French comic-book artist Moebius, the photographs realise Marion’s boyhood dream of one day propelling the ‘hover’ vehicle he imagined the future would provide. And, not only do the classic cars in the photographs – a Chevrolet El Camino, Mercedes 300 SL Roadster and Jaguar XK120 among them – chime with the artist’s idea of what a flying car might look like, they are a spot-on fit with MAD’s retro-futuristic vision.

It’s the second auto-themed exhibition staged at MAD but as MB&F communications director Charris Yadigaroglou points out: ‘ Classic cars strike a chord with us, as they have a lot in common with mechanical watches. The models that Marion features in his photography are beautiful examples of mechanical art – and unlike many current-day automobiles, which are the result of software and “design by committee”, they have their own personality. It’s the same way we approach watch making.’

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Geneva provides the backdrop for the first part of Marion’s essay and, he says, architecture was key: ‘I had to seek out spaces devoid of people and recognisable buildings. I looked for architecture dating from the 1970s, because for me that’s retro-futuristic. The buildings had to be imposing, massive and graphic because I knew that I wanted to use real size cars instead of models. I chose the cars simply by walking down the street. I looked for cars parked on the side of the road.’

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Grant Kelly

Grant is the designer behind Blogic. He enjoys afternoon coffee and blogging about design, music, fashion and technology. He frequently tweets as @grantkelly.


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