When one thinks of the word ‘art’, one might picture iconic paintings by Van Gogh, Rembrandt or even Picasso, statues and sculptures by Michaelangelo or Rodin, or several other famous usual suspects from ancient and modern history.
But new forms, such as mechanical art, might sound a little unfamiliar – and even peculiar.
It is precisely because of this that Maximilian Büsser, founder of independent luxury watch brand MB&F, wants anyone walking into one of his M.A.D. galleries to be amazed and curious about the mechanical kinetic art showcased there.
M.A.D. Gallery officially opened in Dubai last February, in partnership with Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the official and exclusive retailer for MB&F in the emirate, and with the attendance of HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Explaining what M.A.D Gallery stands for, Büsser claims that what is showcased at the gallery is not too different from what he does as a watchmaker.
“M.A.D. stands for Mechanical Art Devices… And, at MB&F, I deconstruct traditional watchmaking and reconstruct it into 3D kinetic art,” he says.
Items on display at the gallery are the result of thousands of hours of work by master craftsmen located in different parts of the world.
One of these is Chicara Nagata, the creator of award-winning only-for-display motorcycles, called “art machines”. Each of these requires more than 7,000 hours of work by Nagata himself.
But Büsser, who founded the first M.A.D. Gallery more than four years ago, says that there is no commercial drive behind this project, as he is doing it for the love of art and for the pride of the mechanical artists he appreciates and values.
“This is not for the money, it is for pride… And, in Dubai, one of the many things I love is the pride; everyone is so proud of what Dubai is today,” Büsser says.
“It has been ten years of MB&F and four years of M.A.D. Gallery, but I still see the same look of amazement on people’s faces when they come in and that is so precious,” he adds.
Büsser personally chooses the artists and art pieces that go on display at M.A.D. Galleries around the world.
He jokingly says that the process of choosing artists to exhibit is a “complete dictatorship; I am the curator.”
“Some people would point out some beautiful painting, but these are not linked to mechanical art. I’m sorry, but I’m the curator. So, if it doesn’t talk to me – and I’m sure it is great – then it is not my thing, so thank you very much,” he explains.
Büsser is completely accepting of the double-edged sword of subjectivity that surrounds art and says that he faces some harsh feedback on his own works of unique timepieces at MB&F.
“I get a ton of people who don’t understand or even hate what I do at MB&F. It happens to me and it’s perfectly okay,” he says. “I discovered the world on Instagram a year and half ago, so I get it.”
From Geneva to the world
The first M.A.D. Gallery opened in Geneva four years ago. At the time, Büsser was going around the world on a constantly active search for artistic gems hidden in different parts of the world.
Remembering the first crazy days of M.A.D. Gallery, spent sourcing art pieces to put on display, Büsser jokingly recalled that the team “didn’t even have a credit card machine for people to actually buy ,” he says.
Currently, there are three M.A.D. galleries around the world: in Geneva, Taipei and, now, Dubai.
At any given time, in any of the galleries, visitors can view pieces of art by approximately ten artists at a time.
Explaining his quite noble reason for not hosting solo shows, Büsser says: “The rest of the gallery has to have works from other artists, because they depend on us and we have a social responsibility.” He also notes that some of the artists experience rather rough living conditions once they’ve chosen to dedicate their life to their art.
However, when a new artist teams up with M.A.D. Gallery, he or she is given sufficient space – roughly half the gallery – in which to display their new pieces and be featured.
Going forward, Büsser plans to be very careful about further expanding M.A.D. Gallery, as he wants to maintain the niche element associated with the brand.
“I would love to have more M.A.D. Galleries in other cities, but I don’t have enough art pieces. It takes the artists a lot of time to produce these pieces.”
However, he notes that a gallery in Southeast Asia would “make sense.”
Whether in Europe, Asia, the Middle East or elsewhere, M.A.D. Gallery’s aim is to inspire awe and appreciation for mechanical art.
“This is not a commercial venture; the point is to amaze our visitors. It still stays subjective, so it has to be something that talks to me and amazes me,” Büsser says.