A Place In The Sun

Audemars Piguet to present Tomas Saraceno’s solar-theme installation for Aerocene at Art Basel Miami Beach

FUSE art and technology, and wondrous stuff come out as a result. This is quite the case with some Aerocene Foundation projects. Despite the group’s artsy, lush description of what it is involved in — “community building, scientific research, artistic experience, and education” — its products are actually cool.

One of these is the Aerocene series, which at their most basic are simply balloons heated by solar power and infrared radiation. But they are more than that; they are actually pitched as “fossil-fuel-free” sculptures. More like shiny orbs floating in space, they can reach the stratosphere and float by means of solar heat in daytime, and infrared radiation at night. The things could serve as weather balloons.

Another is the Aerocene Explorer “backpack,” or what the group says is a “personal tool for solar-powered atmospheric exploration: a tethered-flight starter kit offering a new way to sense the environment.” Housed in this backpack is an inflatable “sculpture” which, through solar and infrared radiation, can float.      

Heavily involved with these projects is the artist Tomas Saraceno, also a visiting artist at MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology. His Albedo — Latin for “whiteness,” and which is also the term used to measure solar reflection — site-specific installation composed of umbrellas will be brought to Art Basel Miami Beach in December.

Set to he presented by Audemars Piguet, Albedo’s collection of 40 reflective umbrellas — each one flipped inside out — will form some sort of a pavilion arranged like a sundial on Miami Beach’s coastline. The sculptures will not serve the usual purpose for which umbrellas were designed, but rather are proposed to “protect the thermodynamic balance of the Earth.” The solar energy harnessed from this act could be used in contraptions like the Aerocene.

Now why is Audemars Piguet presenting the artwork? It’s because it conforms to the watchmaker’s environmental efforts. The Audemars Piguet Foundation has since 1992 been supporting global initiatives on forest conservation, environmental protection and on raising the awareness of youths regarding such programs.

As Olivier Audemars, vice president of the company’s board of directors, says; “When the opportunity to support Tomas in creating a new artwork presented itself, we knew we had to bring his vision to life. Tomas is a master craftsman and similar to how we view ourselves at Audemars Piguet. A term like ‘artist’ doesn’t necessarily encapsulate the complexity of his work or vision. He is also a scientist, master connector and champion of the environment. The artwork in Miami Beach this December will take the art projects Audemars Piguet has directly championed to a new height.”

Audemars Piguet is quick to point out though that Albedo is not part of its Art Commissions program — like a project it presented earlier this year at Art Basel in Switzerland. Or Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests in 2014, and Lars Jan’s Slow-Moving Luminaries in 2017.  Albedo has its own place in the sun.