Maximilian Büsser brings his brand of art to Dubai

Maximilian Brusser, Owner, MB&F Gallery
Maximillian Büsser, Owner, MB&F Gallery

Maximilian started his career by creating products for some of the most luxurious watch brands in the world.

By Maán Jalal

Published: Sun 7 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 29 Mar 2016, 2:56 AM

MAXIMILIAN BÜSSER DESCRIBED himself as a boring guy at one point. This, we can assure you, is far from the truth. Artist, curator, inventor, horological rebel and entrepreneur, Maximilian wears many caps. However dreamer, in the best sense of the word, is probably an apt description of the dapper gallery owner who spoke with much vitality about what it means to be creative as an adult.

Maximilian started his career by creating products for some of the most luxurious watch brands in the world. But something didn't feel right. After some soul searching (and a lot of research) Maximillian did what many thought was impossible, ludicrous and frankly not practical. In 2005, in a market populated with brand names with rich histories, Maximilian decided to launch his own watch brand, MB&F.
"It's my life. I would say MB&F is a life decision not a business decision. It's a really crappy business model but a fantastic life model," Maximilian says with a chuckle.
Standing for Maximilian Büsser & Friends, here Maximilian gave himself the chance to create the watches of his dreams with talented craftsmen and friends.
With 14 years worth of knowledge and experience, the ethos of MB&F was quiet simple - to deconstruct traditional watch making and then reconstruct ideas and aesthetics into pieces of kinetic art. It might not sound simple to many of us, but the results are pretty cool.
The Legacy Machine, the Moonmachine, the HM4 Thunderbolt the HM6 Space Pirate might sound like something out of a brilliant sci-fi movie but they are in fact watches.

Mesmerizing, avant-garde and straight up cool, Maximilian quickly established himself against the odds as a key innovator in the watch world. Still something gnawed at him and Maximilian found that he could and should do more in the field of mechanical arts. So Maximilian did something else out of the ordinary, he opened an art gallery.
The M.A.D Gallery, stands for Mechanical Art Devices and takes the world cool to a whole new level. Procuring some of the most interesting mechanical artists from around the globe, Maximilian's M.A.D Gallery has become a type of orphanage for work that don't fit in traditional contemporary galleries but are non the less worthy of the sometimes coveted term of art work.
With M.A.D Galleries in Geneva and Taipei, Maximilian recently opened the M.A.D Gallery here in Dubai at Alserkal Avenue where the horological rebel spoke with City Times about the power of creativity, karma and introducing different perspective on art.
You've just celebrated your ten years with MB&F. How does it feel to reach such a milestone?
It forced me to suddenly look at what we've achieved in ten years. And actually I was very proud. And why I created MB&F was to be proud. We've had a rock n roll ten years. Four out of ten were extremely tough. And every time we fell down we got up on our feet, stronger. That's what I learnt in those ten years and it makes me even more proud as to why we are here.
The motto for your 10 year anniversary, is 'a creative adult is a child that survived'. Could you elaborate on what that means for to you?
I was a super creative child who became a very boring young adult. I mean like the epitome of boring. And in my 30s I decided to reinvent my life. I started thinking how is it that 100 percent of all children are creative. Every single person was a creative child and then turn out to be 90 percent of boring adults. What happened? And it was a TED talk from Sir Ken Robinson, which opened my eyes. He explains, and it's so true, that children are creative because they are not scared of being wrong. They don't have any judgment. So they sing, they draw, they imagine stuff, and we as parents and professors kill that. Because we want our children to have a greater life. So we keep telling them don't do that, it's wrong, try and do things right or else you will suffer. And you realize that at least for us, we are who we are at MB&F and the M.A.D Gallery because we've taken insane risks, creative risks, entrepreneurial risks, and that's why we are here.
What drew you initially to have a passion for watches?
I was doing engineering (at university) and the only project that was given to me that you could actually mix engineering and sociology, I immediately chose the subject of why would anybody spend money on an expensive mechanical watch. I started sending out letters to all the beautiful watch brands and because the brands were so small back then and all on the verge of bankruptcy, I got letters back from every CEO of every company. I saw the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breguet, Vacheron Constantin. They all tried to explain to me why they were doing what they were doing. And I was blown away. Because for the first time a human being in my engineering course started talking about beauty, emotions tradition, survival. Something human instead of just numbers. And I fell in love with that.
You've been open and opinionated about the negative aspects of the business world. Do you feel that being that open and passionate has some how hindered you in creating your own business?
On the contrary. I believe in karma. It's my half Indian side. My mother is an Indian Parsi. I believe if you've got positive energy or you're completely transparent and say things as they are. You will therefore attract like-minded people. If you don't speak your mind then you will be bogged in with all sorts of people who don't have the same values. And I've realized over all these years, that I have two qualities . . . one is I think different from most people and it was really a big problem when I was a kid. Because when you are a kid, you don't want to be different, you don't want be that weird geeky guy. Which I was. And the other thing is I'm able to surround myself with great people but to surround yourself with great people you have to already tell people who you are. Smoke and mirrors is what everybody does. So there are people who hate my guts. Clearly. But I know why and it's totally ok. Because I say it as it is.
Why did you open the MAD gallery here in Dubai?
It's about people. It's the Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons family. I've been working for over 17 years with the Seddiqi family.They were one of the sixth initial foundation retailers who believed in me enough to actually pay in advance a third of their initial order two years before I delivered the first piece - all based on a drawing! They believed in me. And then when they the MAD gallery in Geneva, they said, 'hey you should open one in Dubai.' When you meet people like that, nothing is impossible, and even if it doesn't turn out great financially it will be a great adventure we'd all be proud of what we did. Then we decided to come and live in Dubai so it made even more sense and there was this location in Alserkal Avenue. Everybody was like ' so you're in the Dubai mall?' And I was like no we are an art gallery and I think this is going to become another beckon of creativity in Dubai and the Middle East, so we want to be here at the beginning, and the Alserkal family have also been incredible.
How did you start the idea for the MAD Gallery?
If somebody told me when I started MB&F, that I was going to create an art gallery I would have said, 'I don't know what you smoke mate but change the label.' Then it just organically happened that more and more people didn't understand what we were trying to do with MB&F.
The watch retailers didn't understand what we were doing, and then I thought we have to be in an art gallery so I went to see art galleries and they said, 'yeah but you're doing a watch,' (laughs). I thought I probably need to create something which will make people understand. And then I met some incredible artists. I met Chicara Nagata a Japanese artists who has spent 7000 hours on every bike he's made and never sold one. When I went to meet him in Japan, I asked him, 'how do you live?' and he said 'well, I make a bit of graphic design on the side to pay for my rent and my food.' And then he said something to his translator and she was all frazzled and she looks at her feet and says 'Nagata tells me to tell you that his wife has left him, he has no more friends but he cannot stop doing what he's doing.' And I was like that's it! That's why I'm doing this job and I always remember the exact moment, the place, the restaurant when he told me that. If this is not art then I don't know what art is. All of it came together and we thought we should showcase all of this. Then we had a location open up close to our workshops and we thought let's do it.
It feels as though sci-fi movies have had a great aesthetic influence on your work. What does influence your visual tastes and your creations?
That's interesting. Because most of what I create is linked very much to that. People think I am still a Star Wars fan . . . I'm not. I was so into that when I was kid because it was my survival mode. I was an only child and very lonely child, my parents were crazy in love with each other and they didn't pay much attention to me, so I was always alone. I didn't have many friends and so my kingdom and my prison was always my room. And in that kingdom, I was Captain Kirk I was Hans Solo and all of that, then luckily in my life I evolved and I became.I'm not going to say normal but more, centered? Then when I started creating, initially I didn't realize it but, it's what makes you excited as a child that actually comes back into what you do. And now I go back to that but that is not who I am today. Children have a sense of awe that we lose as adults, we become blasé people because of bazillion reasons. I just want to feel that sense of 'wow this is so cool!' and that's what I do.
Do you think the MAD Gallery will attract more people because it doesn't showcase traditional art? In a sense what you showcase is more accessible to understand or appreciate.
It's true that I'm often lost in art galleries. You're looking at stuff on the wall and on the ground and you're like, 'what is this?' You're completely lost and then you leave. So I find traditional art very intimidating becuase I actually don't understand it. There's a disconnect for me between art and craftsmanship. Where 80 or 90 percent of the value of an art piece today is the idea and 10 percent is the work. With everything we have here it's a minimum of 70 percent of work, incredible work, and 30 percent the idea. People might think, 'I wouldn't want it in my sitting room but wow! I wouldn't want to drive this but, wow!' I've told everybody in my team that I don't care if anybody buys something here. I want people when they leave this gallery to think differently. To think 'wow, something mechanical could be a piece of art.' And then they will maybe look at other things in their life like that could be art too. We open perspective, that's what we do here.
Photos by Dhes Handumon

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