Not only jewels: some of the greatest artists of the 20 and 21 Century are shrunk into accessories
Jeff Koons, Max Ernst, Lucio Fontana, Georges Braque, Anish Kapoor, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein: it is now possible to see these giants of contemporary art from another point of view, the one of jewelry design.
Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler – at New York Museum of Arts and Design (2 Columbus circle) until January 8 - gives a new perspective on these artists’ poetic expression.
These small scale artworks were not created for mainstream production but were in fact gifts for friends and relatives of the artists. Despite the size, these jewels offer a wider understanding of the artists as once departed from their familiar media a perspective on their more intimate world is revealed to us.
On display are 187 one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewelry pieces by 124 artists, Georges Braque, Louise Nevelson, Anthony Caro, Salvador Dali, John Chamberlain, John Chamberlain, Orlan, Mimmo Rotella to name a few. If a wearable piece by Calder is almost predictable thanks to his well-known mobiles (do you remember the famous earrings he made for Peggy Guggenheim, another avid collector of jewelry?), the Koons’ rabbit necklace – almost abstract in its minimalism - will for sure surprise visitors usually accustomed to his bulky, whimsical colored balloon-works. This delicate accessory recalls Koons’ way of thinking – it’s definitely an extension of his art - but it speaks to viewers on a transcendental level, translating his language into something more delicate, on a smaller scale.
Max Ernst, Brooch: Tête Triangle, gold, private collection
The delivery of the artist’s poetry through this kind of transfiguration is what makes every piece on show special. They all reveal a land so far unexplored, both by who sees the jewels and by who created them, since most of the artists were not familiar with jewelry design, except Kapoor, Arman and Calder.
The works come from private collections, among them the exhibit’s curator’s, Diane Venet, who lent to the Museum a Frank Stella piece of jewelry. Like her, other people believed that owning and collecting jewels designed by artists meant wearing art. Jewelry is an expression of time in history, a prism of culture and beliefs as is any other form of art.
Alexander Calder Necklace, 1935, collection of Patricia Pastor
That is why jewels, much in the same way as clothes, are not only a bracelet or a necklace to be worn but also provide an insight into the artist’s mind. These items are to be treasured as they give an intimate view into the artists’ lives and eventually trace all the small steps that lead to that particular design and message.
Most of all, jewelry is a looking glass through which to see the world. Sometimes, it even succeeds in making you recognize life’s beauty within a little rabbit-necklace.
Jeff Koons wearing Dolce&Gabbana F/W11
Cover Credits: Jeff Koons, Pendant: Rabbit Necklace, 2005-2009, Platinum, Private collection
Written by Elisa della Barba