Cartier CEO of SEA & Oceania Yanina Novitskaya: “Trinity Unites People, Brings Forth Connections, And Gives Us The Opportunity To Share Stories”

Plus, she shares what to look out for in this staging of the exhibition
Centre: Yanina Novitskaya, Cartier’s CEO of SEA & Oceania; Left and right: Rooms inside the Cartier Trinity 100 exhibition in Singapore. Photos: Courtesy of Cartier

It’s the type of anniversary comes around once in a century: Cartier is marking the 100th anniversary of one of its house icons, the Trinity, and, after pop-ups in Paris, London, New York, and most recently Shanghai, the French luxury maison is bringing its Trinity 100 pop-up to our shores. Running from 15 to 23 July 2024 at The Arts House, the seven-room exhibition details the history of the iconic design, from its origins (inspired by legendary artist Jean Cocteau), to its myriad forms and incarnations over the years, its close association with stars and celebrities, and finishing off with several rooms dedicated to commissioned artworks by creatives across various disciplines, including film, music, photography, and more.

An homage to artist Jean Cocteau, who was said to have inspired the design of the iconic Cartier Trinity. Photo: Pakkee Tan

Why has the Trinity continued to fascinate and inspire through the years? Yanina Novitskaya, CEO of Cartier SEA & Oceania, believes it could be because of the strong emotional connections that people form with their Trinity pieces. “Interesting fact: If you look at the second-hand market, you will not find so many Trinity pieces for sale,” she tells us. “No one resells it, because—it’s simple—it stays with you; there is a personal meaning [behind each piece].”

It’s precisely this strong emotional connection that the Trinity 100 pop-up is looking to inspire with its Singaporean, and regional, audiences, and, having previewed the exhibition, I can vouch that it succeeds at both educating and firing up the 100-year-old icon in the imagination once again. Ahead of the centenary celebrations set to kick off in Singapore, Novitskaya sat down with me to talk about the significance of having the Trinity 100 celebrations in Singapore, the Singapore-inspired touches in this staging of the exhibition, and her own personal connection to the Trinity.

The ‘Three is a Magic Number’ room opens the Trinity 100 exhibition. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GRAZIA Singapore: Why did Cartier choose to host the Trinity 100 pop-up in Singapore right after Shanghai?

Yanina Novitskaya (YN): I think it’s the first time ever we’re [doing] this celebration at a true regional level, and we’re very heartened and privileged that we get to host this event and invite guests from more than 20 different cities—it’s not only Southeast Asia and Oceania. We want to celebrate our anniversary, and we have guests from Taiwan, from Tokyo, from Seoul, from India… So for us it’s a very good moment. I think Trinity unites people, brings forth connections, and gives us the opportunity to share stories. Honestly, I’m very happy that we finally managed to do this.

I think it’s not a surprise, because in fact, if you look at the population of the region, the countries which we cover here, and also the central role of Singapore—because still for many countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a leader. In this city, you have such a mix of cultures and mindsets. I think it’s really a place where everyone should be, especially when we see this connection and unity, so it’s a very logical choice.

Singaporean artist Olivia Lee with ‘Trilliance’, her interactive sculpture inspired by kaleidoscopes. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GS: I mean, we are known as a melting pot of different cultures, and it really makes a lot of sense with the whole meaning behind Trinity as well. So what have you learned about the Singapore luxury customer? What do you think that they look for when it comes to Cartier?

YN: Yesterday, we kicked off the celebrations with our key clients and creatives who participated in the pop-up and in the celebrations, and what I can see in the clients here, especially in Singapore, is that they are so committed to support different initiatives. All of them collect art by local artists, they really support young artists, they support those who are probably not recognised enough. I like very much how the art scene is developing in Singapore, or the biennale in Bangkok. And I can see that our clients here are deeply involved and engaged with this agenda. So for me, it’s a great pleasure and I really enjoy my professional life here, because we can communicate—not only on the creations—but also our culture and corporate initiatives. The clients are very diverse, very sophisticated, very well educated in terms of luxury consumption, and they understand why traditions and craftsmanship are so precious; why it’s a heritage for their kids, and want to transmit this to the next generation.

‘Fish Trap House Trinity’, Cheng Tsung Feng. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GS: What do you think is special or different about the pop up in Singapore, and how it tells the story of the Trinity?

YN: I think it’s interesting how we combine different elements, which we wanted to highlight in terms of their historical retrospective, and also different elements behind the design. So you will discover that the pop up consists of several rooms and each of them has a particular purpose, to tell you the story and to explain why, in general today, we celebrate 100 years of the Trinity. Because it’s not only [about] the design—of course, it was very bold and daring at that time, but also [it was about] craftsmanship. I mean, the fluidity of these rings, and very deep meaning behind it, the universality. It was the first ring, I think, to be popular among men and women.

Inside one of the rooms of the Cartier Trinity 100 pop-up at The Arts House in Singapore. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GS: What are some Singapore-inspired touches that we can expect in the pop-up? Are there any Singapore-inspired touches?

YN: We started talking about Singapore as a melting pot of different cultures, so what I like is that we have not only Singaporean artists—we have Malaysian artists, Indian artists… The moderator of our talk yesterday was Audrey Yeo, who is the Director of the Art Galleries Association in Singapore. I really love that Audrey moderated the talk for us, because she’s an artist herself. Before [the talk], we were trying to align on [the agenda]; what would be the main purpose? I said, “Audrey, tell me, why do you think that it’s important?” She said, “Because I want to bring more attention to the Singaporean art stage. If you go to the US, they still love to buy US art. Indonesians, they very much focus on Indonesian artists and their collections. But in Singapore, they are so open minded. If you look at the collections, and I really have access to some collections, what I can see is that they are buying very different artists.” So it’s great when we do this [pop-up] in Singapore, we focus not only on Singaporean artists but others, and we know that clients or visitors who will come to this exhibition, because it’s a new way to promote artists as well.

Indian artist Rimzim Dadu with her artwork ‘The Metal Trinity Sculpted Sari’. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GS: Do you have a favourite artwork in the exhibition?

YN: It’s by an Australian photographer. In the pictures, you can see the pregnant woman; the pregnant model. I didn’t know the story behind it, so I was like, [what is its connection to] Trinity? And I was thinking about this, because it’s also kind of close to my heart—she’s pregnant, I’m a mum—so, [I could see] her, her baby, but who else? And I was thinking that it’s probably the next generation, which we don’t see yet. And when I met the photographer last night, she explained to me that she [found out] she was pregnant with a daughter and that when the embryo was already at six months of age, the reproductive system is already created. So in fact, all the eggs for the future kids are in the girl already, you know, so it’s three generations. Can you imagine that?

‘A Trinity of Beings’, Candice Lake. Photo: Pakkee Tan

GS: On a personal note, what is your favourite Cartier Trinity design?

YN: This ring is very symbolic for me. Yesterday, we were talking with Rafael [Bonachela], who is one of our creatives, the artistic director of Sydney Dance Company. He’s performing here. I’m super happy that we brought him from Australia. He has the same ring, but we celebrate very different things with the same ring. It’s beautiful, because he celebrates his love and partnership with his partner, while I celebrate the birth of my kids, because I got this ring one week after I learned with my husband that we were have twins.

Cartier Classic Trinity ring in white gold and ceramic

My husband, he’s absolutely not involved in luxury—despite the fact that I’ve been working with Cartier for 17 years [laughs]—he doesn’t know all these elements, history… nothing. But the story of why he chose the Trinity for me in 2014—it’s one black ceramic band and two white gold bands—was that he just liked that two rings are the same colour, and the black one dominates. And he said, we still don’t know the gender of our kids—we just knew that it would be twins—but he already wanted to have a fair approach to them. And why he chose this ring is because there is no difference, it’s similar: The two white rings represent our kids, and we are one, and all, connected. So you see they’re very different things but we celebrate with the same ring. When I saw Rafael yesterday, it’s not something that we had prepared. So it’s amazing.

The Trinity 100 pop-up is open to the public from 15 to 23 July 2024 at The Arts House (1 Old Parliament Lane) and admission is free. Book your appointment here.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Reporting assistance by Nicole Ng


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