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Two decades of creative exchangesABOUT THE ROLEX ARTS INITIATIVE

Time to read: 1min 58s

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative was set up to make a contribution to global culture. The programme seeks out gifted young artists from all over the world and brings them together with artistic masters for a period of creative collaboration in a one-to-one mentoring relationship.

In keeping with its tradition of supporting individual excellence, Rolex gives emerging artists time to learn, create and grow.

Since 2002, Rolex has paired mentors and protégés in dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts, architecture and an open category covering interdisciplinary pursuits. The mentoring programme has evolved into an enriching dialogue between artists of different generations, cultures and disciplines, helping ensure that the world’s artistic heritage is passed on to the next generation.

How the programme works?

Every two years, a new advisory board of distinguished artists and arts practitioners suggests and endorses potential mentors. Once the mentors have been approached and have agreed to take part, Rolex works with them to establish a profile of the protégé they would like to work with. Each mentorship is therefore tailor-made.

Young artists cannot apply directly to the programme. Rather, nominating panels – one panel for each artistic discipline – are assembled. The expert panel members identify suitable potential protégés, who are then invited by Rolex to submit applications. Panel members study these applications and recommend three finalists from their respective discipline. Finally, Rolex arranges for the mentor to meet the finalists and choose his or her protégé.

The mentoring period
Mentors and protégés are asked to spend a minimum of six weeks together over a two-year period, though many spend considerably more time. They agree on where and how they want to interact. This may mean a protégé is granted access to a master at work, or to a mentor and protégé actually collaborating on a work.

Rolex financially supports protégés during the mentorship while also contributing to their travel costs and other major expenses. Once the mentoring period is over, each protégé can apply for a fund to facilitate the creation of a new piece of work, a publication, a performance or public event. As for the mentors, they are financially compensated for the time, guidance and other resources they provide.

The future
After the mentoring period, Rolex stays in touch with the protégés and continues to promote their work. Many of the protégés have gone on to significant careers, have changed disciplines, collaborated with each other and have become mentors themselves.

The heritage of mentoring

Engaging with a mentor as a way to learn and achieve full potential as an artist is an ancient and respected practice. The formalized process appears in the works of the great thinkers of the golden age of the Greeks.

In more recent history, famous mentoring pairs include German composer and conductor Christian Gottlieb Neefe who was a role model for the boy prodigy Ludwig van Beethoven and French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro who devoted his life to nurturing young painters such as Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Paul Cézanne.

Only in relatively recent times has mentoring been neglected. However, it is once again gaining popularity as an effective learning approach in diverse fields beyond the arts, including business and education.

Rolex’s vision for revitalizing mentorship in the arts is in keeping with its tradition of supporting individual excellence. Protégés in the programme are granted unparalleled access to the greatest artists in the world, many of whom welcome the opportunity to share wisdom, experience and ideas.


Rolex Arts Initiative

The Rolex Arts Initiative has evolved into a global creative community that has enabled an enriching dialogue between artists of different generations, cultures and disciplines. Since 2002 nearly 1,200 people in 107 countries have been nominated for the programme. Advisors include 144 major artists and creative leaders, while 273 influential figures in the arts have nominated young artists and selected finalists. 58 of the world’s greatest artists have served as mentors.


Rolex has paired mentors and protégés in the fields of architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theatre and visual arts in a unique creative exchange.


Rolex Mentor and Protégé