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MB&F’s Dubai Mall gallery finds the line between MADness and genius

Maximilian Büsser and Friends’ newest kinetic art exhibition, featuring Jennifer Townley, is a walk through the imagination of time in motion

It’s not some guy splashing some paint on a canvas. It’s attention to details. Everything here is difficult to make, but beautiful and extremely complex because of that ~ Maximilian Büsser.

They say there’s a fine line between madness and genius. At MB&F’s new MAD gallery in The Dubai Mall, that fine line is being carefully toed. So carefully, that you ask yourself, as you walk past and gawp at the improbably mesmerizing kinetic artworks that tick, tock and lock into place all around you, whether you’re in the presence of madness or genius.

But a quick look at the success of the independent watchmaker’s galleries and the beauty of his uber-complex timepieces, answers to the latter.

The engineer-turned-watchmaker has a penchant for collecting some of the most fascinating kinetic art works on the planet. And the new gallery in The Dubai Mall is showcasing some of the finest finds the ceo and new age cool kid on the block, Maximilian Büsser has tracked down and displayed next to his timepieces. It’s part of the opening of the ‘Perpetual Transience II’ exhibition which runs until January 18, 2019.

The exhibition includes five limited edition pieces created by Dutch artist Jennifer Townley — whose work Büsser has been a long time admirer of.

At the launch of the exhibition, the eponymous ceo tells Debonair, “This is a space where the beauty of machinery and mechanics is illustrated; a place where art meets time and time meets art.

“When I was first starting up [13 years ago], I would take my watches to watchmakers and they would say, this is not a watch. So I went to see art galleries, and they would say, this is a watch. So, I’m right in the middle. So, I created a gallery which was mechanical art.”

It’s not some guy splashing some paint on a canvas. It’s attention to details. Everything here is difficult to make, but beautiful and extremely complex because of that ~ Maximilian Büsser.

For Büsser, the concept of his art spaces — one of which previously occupied Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz — is to be markedly different from the rest. From an industry and a retail experience which he feels can be formulaic.

“We’re in a moment where you go from Dubai to LA, to Taipei to Berlin and every street is the same: Cartier, Gucci, Dior, LV, etcetera. And we’re saturated by this same stuff, which is very status driven. It lacks originality. I find that the only city I find spaces and concepts that are different is Tokyo. You’ll have people making different things in a different way. The city is like a dream gallery in itself.

“I curate and display art that is unique and different from the norm. I believe in hard work. In extremely complex pieces, which take time to create — which is not a common belief in the art world.

“It’s not some guy splashing some paint on a canvas. It’s attention to details. And of course, I’m 180 degrees from most art galleries when I say that, but everything here is difficult to make, but beautiful and extremely complex because of that.”

Maximilian Büsser, ceo and founder of MB&F.


Among the kinetic art works featured in the MB&F M.A.D. Gallery exhibition are floating, spinning movements, a marble-roller decimal repeater, and mechanical “reeds” which light up and sway to and fro in the presence of movement. Description doesn’t do them justice. As with much kinetic art, you have to see and experience it alongside the march of time to begin to comprehend their intrinsic beauty.

But the artistic star of the show in MB&F’s new Dubai Mall space in Fashion Avenue is Dutch kinetic artist Jennifer Townley — one of Büsser’s favourite contemporary creators.

Townley’s art features shapes and forms with constantly evolving patterns that are continually being distorted and transformed into new and transient patterns of meaning and substance. The exhibition entitled ‘Perpetual Transience II’ will introduce Townley’s artistic foray into kinetic sculptures.

Captivated by how machines can convert relatively simple circular motions into quite complex non-linear and chaotic patterns, Townley finds the robustness and apparent immortality of mechanical machines fascinating.

Townley, who lives in a house in a cloud upon a hill in a small Spanish town just outside of Barcelona — which sounds like something from a Les Miserable solo — tells Debonair her mechanical sculptures draw inspiration from science, engineering, geometric patterns and the work of fellow Dutchman, M. C. Escher whose sketches and repetitive patterns inspired her to explore the geometric side of art.

“They are always moving so there’s a search for the infinite: for the never ending aspect. I’m fascinated by geometrical patterns. It has the same sense of infinity. It’s a mathematical equation that goes on forever, which is a fascinating concept for any artist,” she says as we walk around her art pieces adorning the walls of the gallery.

Take the piece “161 days” as an example. Four interlocked gears rotate, with a string held between them. Each gear has a different number of teeth (87,86, 85 and 84) and as such, the form you see now won’t appear again in the same form for another 161 days. Hence the name.

Townley, who has her work displayed around the world, has five unique pieces on show in the MB&F gallery for the ‘Perpetual Transience II’: Asinas II, Colorola, Cubes L, Cubes S and 161 Days.

“The shapes and movements you see in my pieces all find their basis in organic life forms. They might look highly technical and mechanical, but they reveal something fresh and organic that we can all relate to in a subjective way,” Townley adds.

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MB&F watches first became known for their “instagramability” – yes, that is technically-speaking a word. You can blame the millennials for that addition to the dictionary. So odd and revolutionary were the watches that came from Büsser’s mind, that when they first started appearing on social media feeds ten years ago, they took cyberspace by storm. And they continue to do so.

As Büsser’s collection of artworks testify, image, disruption and revolution are very much in, on all fronts, in today’s world. “We became known as the Instagram watch; which when you have a limited marketing budget and you’re starting out, you take that,” Büsser says.

Anyone familiar with the world of high-end watchmaking will also be familiar with the zany, curious and at times downright outrageous concepts that come to the fore in the shape of MB&F’s machines on the wrist.

It’s a philosophy that is present everywhere you turn in the new gallery in The Dubai Mall. The showroom of kinetic art in the modern world, which includes the limited edition MB&F timepieces speaks of man’s fascination with the mechanical, and the intrinsic beauty of time, physics and engineering.

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