Art and Architecture

An Empowering Promise

Celebrating the achievements of female artists – past, present and future.

That certain creative spark and ingenious spirit of the artist does not depend on the identity of the individual. Regardless of who finds place in the history books or on the museum walls, artists are driven by a passion to create, challenging the norms of their times and the barriers that may stand in their way.

Women artists especially have persevered in putting their mark on the movements of art-be it impressionism or modernism, conceptual or performance art. Berthe Morisot, counting Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edgar Degas as peers, earned her place among the Parisian avant-garde of the late 19th-century, a near anomaly at the time. The abstract works of Hilma af Klint we now know indeed predate the male masters of abstraction previously recognized. These trailblazers paved the way for the next and subsequent generations of artists and creators.

The Spirit of Niki de Saint Phalle

The French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) made a name for herself in the early 1960s. Her vibrant, vivacious and voluptuous Nana sculptures radically celebrate the female form. She was a feminist who embraced fantasy, her multi-disciplinary work full of colour and energy. And she had bold ideas about the future, saying, “Women could administrate this world much better.” She believed they could usher in “a new world of joy.”

She also was not afraid of working outside the system, collaborating on commercially successful and mass-reaching projects to help fund her personal practice. This model was far ahead of its time, challenging the accepted relationship of patron, gallery, and artist. One such endeavour was an eponymous fragrance. While in development in the early eighties, La Prairie’s creative team shared a design studio with the artist in New York, an encounter that led to La Prairie’s embrace of one of Saint Phalle’s favourite colours: cobalt blue. It would become the signature hue of the Skin Caviar Collection, one that embodied a joyful, modern spirit that remains iconic decades later.

The reverence for her work has continued, with La Prairie supporting “Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life” at MoMA PS1 in 2021. The major retrospective of over 200 works exploring the artist’s multi-disciplinary practice and exploration of social and political issues not only ensured the artist’s legacy lives on, it offered visitors a chance to revisit, reconnect, and discover her ground-breaking work. Without a doubt, “Structures for Life” made an impression on budding artistic talents and feminists alike.

Niki de Saint Phalle with “Clarice Again” at her front garden, outside of Paris, France, 1981. Photo: ©Michiko Matsumoto
Bold Female Artists of Today
Artists Carla Chan and Wen-Chi Su.

Inspired by those who came before them, the contemporary artists today carry the torch of charting their own paths in the art world.

The work of artist Carla Chan engages all of the senses. Working between physical and digital, she mines the natural world—and its enigmatic movements—to create immersive experiences that ignite our imagination and inspire contemplation. In May of 2021, Chan presented a time-based video installation entitled, “Space Between The Light Glows“ at Frieze New York, a collaboration with La Prairie. The project was the result of a residency at Monte Rosa Hut in the Swiss Alps. Capturing the fascinating motion of light against a landscape, Chan translated the beauty of what artists describe as the golden hour, a short window of time after sunrise or before sunset when light is at its most transformative.

In contrast, Wen-Chi Su embraces the body as her primary medium. The Taiwanese new media artist, choreographer and dancer investigates our relationship with technology and its impact on our physicality through her experimental practice. Taking on the subject of the dazzling moment when light encounters water, she was recently commissioned by La Prairie to choreograph a performance that took place during Art Basel in Miami Beach in December of 2021. At the ocean’s edge at sunrise and sunset, she performed “Moving Towards the Horizon”, brining to life the nature of light, water and the unique dynamics of their encounter. Intentionally slowing the rhythmic gestures of her body, she encouraged viewers to reflect, allowing for time to stand still.

The Next Generation

Beyond the celebration and representation of established female artists, institutions and individuals revere education as a way to foster and support the next generation of female leaders in the arts. One such mentor is Sabine Marcelis, who is connecting with the creative minds that will shape tomorrow at ECAL, the Swiss University of Art and Design. The Dutch designer is known for her clean, colourful and bold aesthetic vision. Her objects, furniture and interiors express materiality and spatial harmony.

Working directly with students in the school’s Master of Advanced Studies in Design for Luxury and Craftsmanship programme, Marcelis alongside La Prairie invited students to design an object that embodied the purity, precision and timelessness of Swissness. Their proposals were truly inventive, fully emotive and diverse. Students were encouraged to experiment and take chances, emboldened under the tutelage of Marcelis. Administering an environment of learning and play, a sense of creative freedom inspired the ideas of these budding artists.

The bold and courageous expressions of creativity put forth by women artists—yesterday, today and tomorrow—continue to shape how we see the world around us. Amplifying the voices of past and present artists, as well as the future female names in these creative fields, not only inspires, but it also empowers us all to seek truth, wonder, and ultimately, beauty.

Designer Sabine Marcelis with an ECAL student in Switzerland.