It’s no secret that MB&F Founder and Creative Director Maximilian Busser marches to the beat of his own drum. He is not influenced by current trends or conventional thinking and as a result has often found himself somewhat of an outcast in a fiercely traditional industry – not that it’s ever bothered him. That is why when we first heard the rumors that MB&F was going to open its first boutique in Geneva we knew it was going to be unlike anything the luxury watch industry had seen before and suffice to say we weren’t disappointed!
Since opening its doors in October last year the M.A.D Gallery has continued to generate a huge amount of buzz thanks to its unique concept and stunning execution and even though it’s early days yet, it seems this will be yet another triumph for the king of the unconventional. We caught up with Max to learn more about this new project and how he sees it developing further in the future.
Here’s what he had to say.
TWL: What does the M.A.D Gallery mean to MB&F and how does it invite visitors to interact with and learn more about the brand?
MB: At MB&F we usually feel like aliens in a world of watchmaking normality, and realized that out there were many aliens like us but in their own worlds defying practicality and common sense. Artists, creators, designers, all who painstakingly created and crafted their own incredible “Machines” which were often overlooked or misunderstood by their environment. At the M.A.D. Gallery we bring together all these “orphans” to create one jolly family!
For example, by explaining the story of how German “Machine Light” creator Frank Buchwald started crafting by hand from scratch less than ten pieces a year of his incredible Machines, we are in fact in one way talking about us. And by introducing to our MB&F fans these amazing creators/creations we are helping them build an awareness they usually did not have.
TWL: Have you been surprised at the response so far?
MB: Completely and utterly. Because the Gallery is not in the usual “Luxury” high traffic streets, and because for security reasons the door has to remain locked (so visitors must ring to have it opened), we honestly thought we would be happy to welcome 2 to 3 persons a day. From the beginning in October we have averaged from 10 to 30 visitors a day!
And in four months, to our complete shock, we have already sold close to eighty “art” pieces. This of course helps the artists a lot and allows us to work now with them on new developments, sometimes in collaboration, sometimes not.
TWL: What is your personal favorite aspect of the Gallery?
MB: That I am able to meet and sometimes help all these amazing creators!
TWL: It has obviously been a long road to get here with countless hours of work involved but looking back can you pinpoint when you first had that moment of inspiration to create this unique concept? What was the catalyst and how much longer did it take before you started putting a plan into action?
MB: I started thinking of this about two and a half years ago. Initially the idea was to curate an exhibition of independent creators around the “Machine” theme– we never thought we could afford to create our own Gallery (and we had no idea how to do it!) but slowly the idea morphed into a joint venture with an existing Art Gallery – So I started pitching Art Galleries about the concept, and none of them understood or caught on to what we were trying to achieve. So, as Winston Churchill said once (about winning the Battle of Britain) “ We did not know it was impossible so we did it !”
By an incredible chance (sometimes I think my guardian angel works major league overtime), this dream location became available 200 yards from our workshops. We had stopped hoping to find a space so we had not included it in our yearly budget – and had to find in our 8 million Sfr revenue practically 700’000 Swiss Francs for the works, rent, employees, works of art and administrative costs when it had not been budgeted. So Serge Kriknoff, my partner in the company and our technical whiz kid, and I took our machete and slashed unmercifully in our investment/overheads projections to find the necessary money. And we did. You cannot even begin to understand how proud and happy I am of what our team has achieved with this Gallery!
TWL: How has the concept evolved over time from the drawing board to a bricks and mortar reality?
MB: It practically has not. My main concern was how to allow such different creations to cohabitate in 65 square meters (700 sqft) without looking like an ugly disjointed circus… But by working with our architect on segmenting pretty formally the “black” part of the Gallery which presents our Horological and Legacy Machines, and the “white” part which is the showcase for all the art pieces, it actually works really well.
Also we worked very much on the lighting – which I believe is key to conveying a cozy and elegant feeling to the whole.
TWL: Undoubtedly you faced many challenges along the way, did you ever think about giving up?
MB: Giving up?! No way! I would never have built MB&F if I had even an ounce of that sort of thinking in me. As my Dad use to tell me, when I was whining as a child “just grit your teeth and get it done!”. I thank him also for that, even though at the time I probably wanted to punch him in the nose!
At MB&F I have gathered an incredible team who find solutions instead of wasting time in identifying and whining over problems.
TWL: You have gathered together a staggering array of incredibly creative and varied artists to exhibit alongside the MB&F timepiece collection, how did you find them and what did you look for when making your selections?
MB: Initially by scouring the Internet while populating our MB&F “A Parallel World” blog over the last five years. In fact most of the pieces we show I owned personally before we launched the project. The M.A.D. Gallery is a little like my own Madhouse.
Then through my travels and meeting my clients around the world who would point me into different directions, like Xia Hang, the Chinese transformer sculpture artist whom I discovered through one of my MB&F collectors who happens also to be one of the foremost Chinese contemporary art collectors.
TWL: In your video you hint that this first Gallery could be one in a series with the possibility of opening other locations in the future. Would it be presumptuous for us to assume then that you’ve already started scouting possible new sites? Any hints on which city might play host to the next M.A.D Gallery?
MB: Like with all our MB&F projects it is all about the persons we collaborate with. Since the Geneva opening, a certain amount of clients and retailers have hinted at wanting to develop the same concept in their city. We are of course totally open to this, but it has to be done following the very strict guidelines of our Geneva Gallery, because this is our primary link between us and those who will discover us.