Cover American jazz singer Dianne Reeves selected South Korean singer and composer Song Yi Jeon as her protégé (Photo: Rolex)

Established in 2022, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative aims to help pass on artistic knowledge and craft from one generation to the next

It is clear to watch collectors and fans that Rolex prides itself on the exceptional quality of its watches. But that's not all, the Swiss luxury watch brand always strives for excellence in every aspect of its activities, be it watchmaking or partnerships. This is clear in Rolex's support for arts and culture over the years, having worked with some of the world’s most talented artists and leading cultural institutions to help perpetuate artistic heritage and bridge the past, present and future. 

Since 2002, the brand has organised the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative to encourage renowned artists to inspire and mentor the next generation. Mentors and protégés are paired up for two years, which they spend in creative collaboration.

For the upcoming 2023-2024 cycle of this programme, Rolex has brought together five acclaimed artists, each specialising in a different craft or skill, along with five talented young professionals from around the world.

Get to know these mentor and protégé duos below.

Read more: Rolex at the Movies: A History of the Watchmaker’s Connection to Cinema

Visual Arts: Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui and South African visual artist Bronwyn Katz

Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui is widely recognised for helping to redefine the global art world with Africa’s presence by raising its profile through his monumental sculptures and installations. He is known for his large-scale sculptures composed of thousands of folded and crumpled pieces of metal and other found materials bound together with copper wire. 

He is Emeritus Professor in Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, an Honorary Royal Academician of the Royal Society of Arts and elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. El Anatsui has also been awarded the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale.

His protégé is South African visual artist Bronwyn Katz, who has established herself internationally. The Cape Town-based artist has incorporated sculpture, installation, video and performance in her acclaimed, nuanced body of work that uses found natural materials such as iron ore, or salvaged manufactured objects including foam mattresses and bed springs.

She has exhibited her work at London’s White Cube gallery in 2021 and the International Art Exhibition of the 2022 Venice Biennale, as well as won Africa’s prestigious First National Bank Art Prize in 2019. She is also a founding member of iQhiya, a network of 11 black women artists.

Literature: British author Bernardine Evaristo and Ghanaian writer Ayesha Harruna Attah

Bernardine Evaristo was the first black woman and the first black British person to win the prestigious 2019 Booker Prize for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other. She has written 10 books that explore the African diaspora and many more works of short fiction, poetry, drama, essays and journalism. Evaristo is President of the Royal Society of Literature, the first writer of colour to hold the position in 200 years.

Senegal-based Ghanaian author Ayesha Harruna Attah is part of a new generation of African writers establishing themselves in literary circles. She has published five novels including Harmattan Rain (2009) and Zainab Takes New York (2022). In her works, Attah strives to create historical fiction that challenges existing preconceptions of Africa. Among her many accolades, Attah was a finalist in the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, long-listed for the Prix Les Afriques and shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.

Film: Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke and Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel

Recognised as one of the most daring Chinese filmmakers today, Jia Zhang-Ke's early films, known as the Shanxi trilogy, caught moments of transition in Chinese society. In 2006, his critically acclaimed Still Life won the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival and earned him the title of Best Director at the Asian Film Awards. His three latest award-winning feature films are A Touch of Sin (2013), Mountains May Depart (2015) and Ash is Purest White (2018). In 2017, Jia founded the Pingyao International Film Festival.

Based between Amsterdam, London and Manila, Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel has grounded his films in the study of philosophy and visual communications. He has won the Silver Bear Jury Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival for his short film Filipiñana, the Prince Claus Seed Award for Development and Culture, the Script and Development Award from the Hubert Bals Fund and the Ani ng Dangal Award from the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Manuel is currently working on his first two feature films: Filipiñana (based on his short) and Patrimonio. He is also co-founder of the international artist collective and film production company, Idle Eye Productions.

Architecture: French architect Anne Lacaton and Lebanese-Armenian architect Arine Aprahamian

Anne Lacaton is renowned for designs that maximise architecture's human and environmental potential, as well as make sustainable use of what already exists. Together with her partner Jean-Philippe Vassal, she was named a Laureate of the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Established in Paris in 1987, Lacaton & Vassal has designed dozens of private and social housing projects, cultural and academic institutions, as well as public spaces—mostly throughout Europe. Lacaton has served as an Associate Professor of Architecture and Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich and has been a visiting professor at other leading universities.

Arine Aprahamian is a Lebanese-Armenian architect, designer and researcher who champions an innovative, affordable and sustainable vision of the future. She founded the architecture and design studio Müller Aprahamian with partner Adrian Müller in 2018, working on projects in Beirut, London and Yerevan, Armenia. They recently launched Terraforma, an in-house R&D project working with local industry to explore the traditional, ancient building material of clay and produce innovative, domestic alternatives for architectural materials.

Music: American jazz singer Dianne Reeves and South Korean singer and composer Song Yi Jeon

Five-time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves is one of the top jazz vocalists in the world. She was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and has performed at the White House on multiple occasions. In 2018, the National Endowment for the Arts designated Reeves a Jazz Master, which is the highest honour for a jazz artist in the US.

South Korean modern jazz singer and composer Song Yi Jeon is known for skilfully combining modern jazz harmony and odd time signatures with captivating, singable melodies. She studied at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she was the inaugural Quincy Jones CJ&E fellow and was also awarded the Billboard Endowed Award. The Song Yi Jeon Quintet has performed at New York’s famous Blue Note, and in 2015, the Quintet released the mini-album Straight. In 2018, Jeon released her first album, Movement of Lives.

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