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Special reports

Sculptures made at Art Basel with Swiss machine precision

Swiss artist Raphael Hefti borrowed state-of-the-art milling machine to carve works

by Julia Halperin  |  17 June 2015
Sculptures made at Art Basel with Swiss machine precision
The artist Raphael Hefti with his milling machine at RaebervonStenglin (N1). Photo: David Owens
Who says robots cannot make beautiful art? On Tuesday, VIPs including Thomas Campbell, the director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, crowded around RaebervonStenglin’s stand (N1) to watch the expert operation of a seven-tonne machine—the kind typically used to produce weapons and watch parts. The Swiss artist Raphael Hefti borrowed the state-of-the-art milling machine from the Swiss manufacturer Schaublin Machines to carve aluminium cylinders into sinuous sculptures in seconds at the fair. Ultra-high-resolution screens, on loan from the electronics company LG, offer close-up footage of the machine peeling away the aluminium. The installation found a particularly appreciative audience in Basel, which relies on these machines to produce the watches and luxury boats that power its economy. “Most of us have no idea where our products come from, but CNC [computer numerical control] machines are actually the backbone of our civilisation,” Hefti says.

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