In 2023, on the occasion of the Bee Bottle’s 170th anniversary, Guerlain has trained its very own Artificial Intelligence model to devise a daring and futuristic digital exhibition, reinterpreting the Bee Bottle through the ages, from its creation in 1853 to 2193.
/INTRODUCING: BORN IN 1853. MADE FOR THE FUTURE.
A challenging retrospective and a promising glimpse into the future made possible by the combination of a custom-designed artificial intelligence model and extensive research into Maison Guerlain’s heritage.
Over 1800 unique pieces of art were generated and assembled into an ethereal digital exhibition curated with the expertise of artistic directors, archivists and creative technologists.
In 1853, Guerlain’s founder designed the Bee Bottle as a wedding present to Empress Eugenie de Montijo with Napoléon III: its iconic shape is highly inspired by the top of the Colonne Vendôme, women’s pannier dresses and the sumptuous gilding of Second Empire palaces.
A new creative era unfolds with the Salon des refusés (1863) and the advent of photography, with Haussmannian Paris as its primary muse. Located on Rue de la Paix, the Guerlain boutique witnesses the birth of a new urban space and sees the city adorned with parks that will soon make it the most beautiful city in the world.
Driven by the progress of science, landscapes are covered with railways, Paris sees the construction of the Eiffel Tower, encyclopedic illustrations sublime our knowledge, while chemistry works wonders and enables Maison Guerlain to release its first perfumes using synthetic elements.
In the face of rationality, the defining characteristic of the second half of the 19th century, art becomes more subjective. Through its colors, technique, and expressiveness, it deconstructs everything to offer an experience that is primarily sensory, as personal and ephemeral as a perfume.
Enchanted by the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, European art succumbs to the fever of Orientalism and fantasizes about its monuments, landscapes, and legendary characters. It is within this Orientalist mythology that Guerlain will compose its legendary perfume, Shalimar.
Art Nouveau turns Paris into the center of the artistic world. Its posters, stained glass windows, architecture, and voluptuous curves inspired by nature redefine the capital. It is within this architectural renewal that Guerlain invests in the Champs-Élysées and opens its second boutique in 1912.
Galvanized by the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties across the Atlantic, Paris becomes the stage for the Roaring Twenties. A period of creativity that witnesses the golden age of cabaret, but also new realities that break free from the narrow artistic constraints of the pre-war era. This period further establishes the prestige of Maison Guerlain on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the second half of the 20th century, the artistic avant-garde emerges around cinema and photography. First in black and white and then able to display a full range of colors, in the streets of Paris, Guerlain accompanies the urban renewal and the rise of color and light.
At the dawn of the new millennium, art becomes playful, extravagant, and gigantic. It tries everything, embraces new and more subversive styles, moving away from the academic norms. The Bee Bottle itself embarks on a series of collaborations spanning different aesthetics and forms of artistic celebration.
The eternal Paris reinvents itself around the regenerative power of nature. Historic monuments and natural wonders come together to live in symbiosis, redrawing the contours of a capital that now sees vegetation as its most beautiful attribute.
Guerlain invites us to raise our eyes to the sky to discover these new beauties revealed to us. Unique colors trace the contours of the Bee Bottle of the future, which becomes cosmic, astral, while celestial bodies accompany its majesty to unknown lands where the laws of physics fade away.
In a world more ethereal than ever, liberated from its materiality and transformed into a liquid, the Bee Bottle sits unchanging. Bathed in azure hues, its forms, now four centuries old, are enshrined in posterity.
1. A team of Guerlain archivists and artistic directors highlighted key milestones in the history of Maison Guerlain to stress its vibrant heritage. Each milestone was paired with artistic references, architectural inspirations and visual archives of the period.
2. Meanwhile, a team of creative technologists assembled and trained a complex custom AI model, mixing different AI tools for image and video creation, enabling the generation of the Bee Bottle from all angles.
3. Each milestone period was broken down into a simple prompt, i.e. a written request addressed to the custom AI model to generate images, with the help of prompt engineers. Each word of the prompt contained key information about the image composition, lights, colors, visual techniques, etc.
4. While the first milestones tapped into the heritage of Maison Guerlain, the future of the Bee Bottle had yet to be written. To design a utopian future, inspirations and references were borrowed from the Solar Punk movement, as well as futuristic and ethereal aesthetics.
5. After multiple iterations through the custom AI model, shortlisted milestone images laid down the backbone of the movie. AI was then tasked to generate additional “filler images” filling in the gaps between milestones, while being granted a larger creative freedom.
6. Once generated, filler images and milestones were assembled into a film and smoothed out by the AI model. Imperfections and aesthetic oddities — characteristics of generative art, remained untouched to keep the marks of this unique creative journey.
WHAT DOES GENERATIVE ART MADE POSSIBLE BY THE RISE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MEAN?
Artificial intelligence can be used for artistic purposes through generative art: it involves a written request, called a prompt, addressed to an artificial intelligence. With its analytical capabilities and computational power, artificial intelligence is capable of generating an original image using a technique called text-to-image, based on the given prompt. The challenge here was to construct the most precise prompt possible.
HOW WAS AI USED IN THE FILM "BORN IN 1853. MADE FOR THE FUTURE"?
For the creation of this film, Guerlain designed and trained its own AI model to recognize and represent the Bee Bottle from all angles. To trace the history of the Bee Bottle and its most significant historical milestones, prompts were written by Guerlain teams based on the Maison Guerlain archives. Once generated by AI, the final images were selected, corrected, and assembled into a final video.
WAS THE FILM ENTIRELY GENERATED BY AI?
Although the images that make up the film were generated by an artificial intelligence model, human input was crucial. The selection of historical milestones, the writing of prompts, the correction and selection of final images, etc., the work of artistic directors, archivists, and creative technologists played a significant role in the realization of the film.
HOW WAS THE PART ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE BEE BOTTLE (2023-2193) IMAGINED?
This utopian vision stems from a profoundly optimistic view of our future and aligns with Guerlain's mission to pursue beauty and protect the environment. To achieve this, this part draws inspiration from artistic movements such as Solar Punk or highly refined and ethereal aesthetics.
WHY DID MAISON GUERLAIN CHOOSE TO USE THIS PROCESS?
With its commitment to heritage and art history, Maison Guerlain was eager to explore the creative potential of artificial intelligence. The 170th anniversary of the Bee Bottle provided an opportunity to revisit its heritage through the lens of artificial intelligence and leverage this technology to envision a utopian future.
WHAT IS GUERLAIN'S APPROACH TO CREATIVITY THROUGH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
We like to believe that AI and human sensitivity can work together as creative allies rather than competitors. For this purpose, three principles were established to guide the collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence is not used to replace humans: human sensitivity is involved at every stage of the creative process.
Together, humans and artificial intelligence elevate the creative gesture to create a work that they would be incapable of generating alone.
The imperfections and anomalies of generative art are part of the creative exploration we undertake. We aim to preserve them.