Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative

Rolex_Frost-Eno_Babyshark's Minority Report

Rolex is a world-renowned watchmaker. The company was founded in England as Wilsdorf and Davis, in 1905. Its headquarters, since 1919 have been in Geneva. It is considered one of the most valuable global brands, numer 71 according to Forbes magazine.

In the year 2002, the company -always true to its tradition of supporting individual excellence- set up the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a philanthropic program that brings together internationally recognized masters  and promising young artists, with the objective of contributing to global culture. The program, which runs every two years, has mentors and protégés spending a year in a one-to-one mentorship relationship. The company wanted to do for artists something similar to what it was doing with the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, created in 1976, which support scientists, conservationists and explorers. It came up with the idea of a mentorship, which seemed more appropriate for the arts.

Rolex_Jacir-Zhang Yimou_ Sellars-Zbib

The program has paired some of today’s most important artists and rising young talents; in literature, film, dance, music, theater, visual arts and architecture, and has established a new global community of artists in less than a decade.  Artists like Jessye Norman, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mira Nair, Martin Scorsese, Peter Sellars, Zhang Yimou, Brian Eno or Anish Kapoor have been some of the mentors, which are chosen by a special advisory board which suggests and endorses the potential mentors. When the mentors agree to take part, they work with Rolex to define a profile of protégé they would like to work with. It is therefore a carefully matched relationship. An expert panel identifies suitable potential protégés, who are invited to submit applications. The winner is chosen by the mentor after personal interviews. So far, there have been protégés from 20 countries.

Rolex_Kapoor-Hlobo_Babyshark's Minority Report

Mentors and protégés spend a considerable amount of time together, interacting in many different ways, sometimes even collaborating on a work. Protégés receive a 25,000 Swiss-franc grant during the year and travel and other expenses are also covered. An additional 25,000 Swiss francs is available for each protégé after the year ends to fund a work, a publication, a performance or an event. Mentors are awarded 50,000 Swiss francs. Protégés also obtain international publicity for their work and time to develop their art, free from daily worries.

Protégés can become mentors themselves in future editions of the program. Some have changed disciplines and others have created new works.

(In the photos: Ben Frost & Brian Eno, Annemarie Jacir & Zhang Yimou/ Peter Sellars  & Maya Zbib, Anish Kapoor & Nicholas Hlobo/Hans Magnus Enzensberger & Tracy K. Smith)

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Christine Lagarde

When French president Nicolas Sarkozy asked Christine Lagarde to join his cabinet in 2007, as Minister for Economy, Industry and Employment, she was already the first ever female Chairman of Chicago-based global law firm Baker & McKenzie. She is a respected antitrust and labour lawyer and today, as first female Managing Director of the Intenational Monetary Fund, she’s considered the 9th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine (2011) and part of a very exclusive club of women that include Dilma Rousseff or Angela Merkel. She certainly looks the part, poised and elegant, calm and reassuring, reflexive and charming, her skin looking permanently tanned in contrast with her silver hair.

After Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s very public downfall and resignation, as a result of a sex scandal  -to the deep embarrassment of France; Christine Lagarde was immediately mentioned as a possible successor, and she received the support of Britain, India, the US, Russia, China and Germany. The Telegraph once described her as “the woman with no enemies”. From her first day on the job she had very complicated issues on the table, and her no-nonsense style was evident from the start and some statements she made angered many, especially in Greece. It was in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, where she basically described Greeks as rampant tax dodgers and ruled out any breathing space from the austerity measures the country faced.

She is a hard-working woman, with a strong and elegant presence, firm in her convictions and obviously someone who speaks her mind. She is an outsider to politics in France, because she did not attend the prestigious École Nationale d’Administration, where most high-ranking French officials and politicians are groomed. She also never distinguished in math, being a Managing Director of the IMF who is more a lawyer than an economist. Being an outsider gives her a better perspective of things probably.

She was born Christine Madeleine Odette Lallouette, and her parents were both teachers. She studied in a girls’ school in Maryland, US; she got a degree in Law in Paris and a Master’s Degree in political science. She also worked as an intern at the United States Capitol, as congressional assistant to William Cohen. She has divorced twice, but no one really knows much about her two ex-husbands. They are not even mentioned in her official biography, which shows how fiercely she controls her public image. She has two sons, is a vegetarian and never drinks, although she did have a glass of champagne in an airport when she found out that had been appointed IMF boss.

Being French, there’s the issue of the elegance too. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who laughed at a similar question once, asking the interviewer if she’d ever ask that question to a man; Christine Lagarde has no problem talking about her wardrobe. In an interview with Vogue, she confessed that gets her clothes from three places mostly: Chanel, Ventilo and Austin Reed.

One of my favorite phrases by Christine Lagarde is that men, when left to themselves, make mess of things. Which is, well, as we all know, completely true. She is a strong believer in gender equality and has said that women are better than men when it comes to managing tasks and common sense. This is why she wants to hire many more women than men while she’s MD of the IMF.

She was always an overachiever. Many don’t know that as a teenager, Christine was a member of the French national synchronized swimming team, for example, or that she sang backing vocals in a ska band called “Les Messages Mixe” before getting married.

As Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde faces incredible challenges, like world economies on the brink of collapse, especially in Europe. She still has four years to go, but it will not be an easy ride for sure. Saving the Euro will be no easy task. The journey will be full of dangers and crises. And we need strong leaders in times of uncertainty.

Will Miss Lagarde be one of those leaders we so desperately need? Will this elegant and competent French woman be able to help fix the mess that we men created?

Highway to China

Frustrated by the lack of efficiency and capacity of Brazilian ports, Eike Batista, Brazil’s richest man (and the world´s 7th fortune according to Forbes), decided that he simply could not afford to wait. He would start building himself what will be one of the biggest ports in the world, a project that has already been called the Highway to China.

 

Construction of the future Acu Superport, situated some 400km north of Rio de Janeiro, near São João da Barra, is already underway, and is expected to cost $2.7 billion. The first element of the port complex is a cement causeway, that will have a four-lane highway, pipelines and conveyor belts to transport resources like iron ore (Batista´s main business), soybeans or oil to ships. The causeway extends 3km into the Atlantic Ocean.

We have enormous iron ore mines, so it’s a logistics business, because without logistics we can’t transport to China” Batista says. “There are huge mines and huge oil reserves right in the vicinity of this complex, 85% of Brazilian oil production is within 150 km radius”. The area Batista is developing would include oil refineries, car factories, an energy plant, and will occupy an area bigger than Manhattan. And he wants to run as much of the operation as possible, so it can be truly efficient. When finished, it will be the biggest port in Southamerica and employ more than 50,000 people.

 

The port would not only serve Batista´s companies, but other companies and industries as well. He has also managed to woo foreign investors into sinking money into the development. A Chinese company has already pledged to invest five billion dollars to build a steel factory there.

It is precisely China´s insatiable appetite for iron ore from Batista´s mines and other raw materials, and the painfully slow movement of containers through Brazilian ports, what has led him to come up with this idea. China is currently Brazil’s main export destination in value terms, according to Datamar: a 31%. The US, in contrast, is a distant second, at 11% in 2011.

But he has found in this lack of appropiate infrastructure an incredible opportunity for doing business on an even grander scale, and in the process he will help Brazil be more connected to the world.

 

This year, Ports in Brazil are expecting to handle a billion tons of cargo for the first time, according to estimates by ANTAQ , Brazil’s National Agency for Waterway Transportation. This would mean a 12.3 percent increase compared to 2011. Investments in the past six years have been responsible for these records levels. Batista’s new port will certainly contribute, because it is the single biggest investment in ports in Brazil.

To read my article in PDF, with photo credits, etc: Highway to China.

For more on Brazil-China relations, read this PDF.