By  on August 17, 2009

Movado is known for its clean, modern timepieces, but the brand’s collaboration with painter, sculptor and performance artist Kenny Scharf goes in a different direction.

The company, which has long been involved and contributed to the worlds of art and popular culture, has added Scharf to its roster of artist collaborators. Scharf, a protégé of Andy Warhol, is known for infusing pop culture icons such as Judy Jetson into psychedelic color schemes.

Since 1987, Movado has invited artists to collaborate on its Artists’ Series limited edition watch line, including Warhol, James Rosenquist and Arman.

Efraim Grinberg, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer, is an avid art collector and even owns a piece from Scharf. His father, Movado Group Inc. founder Gedalio “Gerry” Grinberg, who died in January, set a precedent early on to support the arts, through organizations such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and American Ballet Theatre, as well as by teaming with relevant artists to fuse their work with the firm’s products.

Efraim Grinberg met Scharf through mutual friends in 2007 and the pairing seemed likely from the start.

“I’ve long admired Kenny’s work,” said Grinberg. “He was one of the first graffiti artists and a contemporary of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Graffiti is about painting on something and improving it by adding life and color to a background. We thought, ‘Let’s use the cleanliness of the Museum Dial as a canvas.’”

Scharf took the iconic Nathan George Horwitt-designed, Bauhaus-inspired Museum Watch and illustrated the dials with his signature aesthetic. There are six watches in all that were produced in limited runs. There are 25 limited edition box sets that will retail at Movado stores for $3,495, starting next month. In addition, 100 limited edition pieces of each style will be sold for $695.

The Blurple Time, featuring a face depicting what the artist calls a “blobby purple” lava lamp-inspired image, and Starring the Star, portraying a rainbow of concentric circles with a cartoon smiley face at the 12-hour, are taken from existing Scharf works. The remainder, including Movado Time , in which Scharf toyed with the brand’s logo and the signature Museum Dial dot at the 12-hour, are original works.

“I look [at the Museum Dial] as a blank canvas,” said Scharf, who calls his work a blend of “pop, surrealism and abstract expressionism.”

Scharf has partnered with Gap and Todd Oldham on special projects. He also collaborated with the late Stephen Sprouse in the Eighties, but the work was never seen because Sprouse’s business foundered before the debut of it.

“I’ve always wanted to be out there in the big world of consumerism, not just the consumerism of the gallery walls,” said Scharf. “I don’t differentiate from the different ways of making art. I’ve always been into fashion and making it my own.”

Up next for Scharf, who resides in both New York and Los Angeles, is “Barberadise,” a show that opens Sept. 12 at Honor Fraser, a Los Angeles gallery.

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