The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is a philanthropic programme that 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 and architecture. 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.
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 year
Mentors and protégés are asked to spend a minimum of six weeks together, 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.
Each protégé receives a grant of 40,000 Swiss francs during the mentoring year, in addition to funds to cover travel and other major expenses. A budget of a further 30,000 Swiss francs is available to each protégé after the year is over. This is offered specifically towards the creation of a new piece of work, a publication, a performance or public event. To compensate them for the time, energy and other resources they provide, each of the mentors is awarded an honorarium of 100,000 Swiss francs.
After the mentoring year, 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.
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.