In 79AD, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii under countless tons of volcanic ash, instantly extinguishing the lives of the inhabitants but also preserving the ancient city until it was rediscovered in 1748 by a Spanish engineer. On the walls of this ancient city, archaeologists discovered some of the earliest examples of graffiti, including a touchingly crude paean to the broken hearted which read: “Who ever loves, go to hell, I want to break Venus’s ribs with a club.”
Since time immemorial, man has felt the compulsion to elucidate his Freudian id and pour the inner mechanics of his consciousness onto the public walls of those edifices to civilisation known as cities. And whether the motivation was political, such as the graffiti that emerged after the May 1968 student protests in Paris, or a signifier of a broader cultural evolution, such as the graffiti that accompanied the emergence of the hip-hop scene in New York in the early 1980s, it has always been one of the most visceral methods of artistic communication.
In 2015, Harlem-born graffiti artist JonOne was commissioned to paint a mural entitled Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité – based on Eugène Delacroix’s famous Liberty Leading the People – for the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French National Assembly. Conspicuously on the wrist of this artist was none other than a Richard Mille RM 005. When asked about it, he replied simply: “It’s the only watch I’ve ever wanted and it was a dream come true when I got it.”