Stones against Diamonds

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars presented the first public showing of Isaac Julien’s work Stones Against Diamonds during Art Basel in 2015. Commissioned as part of the Rolls‑Royce Art Programme, the film explores the subjects of beauty and natural creation within the landscape of Iceland.


Isaac Julien’s film draws inspiration from a letter written by Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi. Stones Against Diamonds examines themes within her letter that praise the beauty of natural elements above precious stones. Filming at the remote Vatnajökull glacier in south-east Iceland, and using the breathtaking scenery of ice caves as a backdrop to his film, Isaac Julien portrays some of the most beautiful objects as the least precious – in a conventional sense.

The shoot took place over five days, with the crew enduring sub-zero temperatures deep in the heart of spectacular glacial caves. These caves have formed over thousands of years and are accessible for only a few days a year, due to the harsh climate.

The iconic Spirit of Ecstasy, which adorns the bonnet of every Rolls-Royce, was a major influence in the narrative of Isaac Julien’s film. He conveys the emblem in the form of actress Vanessa Myrie as a ‘spirit guide’ – taking the viewer on a journey from one landscape to another.

Signature elements of Bo Bardi’s work have been incorporated into Stones Against Diamonds, including a staircase built by hand into the ice cave during production of the film. Continuing the parallels, Isaac Julien integrates Bo Bardi’s trademark glass and concrete easels into his film.


Richard Carter, Director of Global Communications for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said: “The crew travelled to the ends of the earth to find the most beautiful natural components in order to create a piece of moving, dramatic and timeless art. This truly reflects Rolls-Royce, where the master craftspeople source the world’s finest materials to create rare, unique and exquisite motor cars. The materials transcend their primary function as a form of conveyance to become works of art themselves.”

Isaac Julien also commented on his work: “It was the breadth of Lina Bo Bardi’s creative impulse and egalitarian beauty of her work that moved me to develop a poetic homage to the art and life of Brazil’s most important female architect. Stones Against Diamonds is the beginning of my exploration of her emblematic architectural designs and innovative curatorial strategies, which have inspired me following the centenary of her birth in 2014.”

Stones Against Diamonds was commissioned as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme, which draws together the handcrafted elegance of the marque’s motor cars with contemporary artists from around the world.

This has led to the creation of critically acclaimed works from some of the most revered and admired contemporary artists. Many have travelled to the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, England – itself an award-winning contemporary British design – to find inspiration for their work. Artists include Ugo Rondinone, Erwin Wurm, Regina Silveira, Will Cotton, Angela Bulloch and Morgan Wong.

Isaac Julien’s new commission extends his ongoing relationship with the marque, following an artist talk he gave as part of the Rolls-Royce Art Programme during Frieze Art Fair London in 2012.


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