The Art of Jewels - By Victorine Lamothe
If you ask somebody to give you an example of “art”, they would probably respond citing the Mona Lisa, the works of French Impressionists, or perhaps a Cubist painting by Picasso. Jewelry, however, has gradually been seeping into the general artistic vocabulary, along with fashion, furniture design, and textiles. From talented, innovative designers to interesting gallery exhibits and breathtaking concepts, jewelry has rightfully earned its place on the global arts stage.
From the birth of civilization, people have been creating both jewelry and art. And while jewelry’s roles have morphed over time—including displaying wealth, symbolism, or specific cultural rituals—it’s always shared a common point with art: It is a practice exercised by skilled creatives that results in the production of aesthetically-pleasing or thought-provoking works.
It was at the end of the 19th century, however, that jewelry-making dawned as an art form. Masters such as the French designer René Lalique, with his exquisite Art Nouveau pieces, and Fabergé, a virtuoso in decadent creations, paved the way for the rise of the “jewelry as art” movement, which saw its beginnings in the United States post-WWII. During that time, major art musuems—including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Walker Museum in Minneapolis—held exhibitions solely dedicated to the art of jewelry, which also coincided with a steadily growing appreciation for the work of artisan jewelers. What’s more, artists (in the traditional sense of the term) such as Picasso, Calder, and the Salvador Dalí even dabbled in the art of jewelry.
Today, bold-face names from the fashion industry, art world, and more have crafted and displayed their own jewelry art. Take, for example, the Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons or Versace, which just unveiled its own atelier jewelry collection (comprised of hand-sculpted rings) at Paris Fashion Week this past July. Esteemed museums—such as Paris’s Les Arts Décoratifs, which just featured the work of Anna Hu—have furthermore encouraged the appreciation of jewelry as art with exhibits showcasing the work of established designers.
Fashion has undeniably influenced this movement, especially when you consider the notion of fashion being regarded as art. Just as fashion speaks to a society’s cultural status quo (and is considered a cultural activity), jewelry does so as well. Think of the evolution of fashion trends, how they develop and mold themselves to the times—just as jewelry does. In the 1960s, the mod look, and then the hippie look, were all the rage: Jewelry started coming in psychedelic colors, new shapes, and designers were drawing inspiration from places like India and the Far East.
Spaces dedicated to exhibiting fashion have started showing jewelry in parallel to clothing pieces: The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art features a bevy of pieces from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, even from luminaries such as Yves Saint Lauren and Givenchy—fashion designers who also saw the creative value of jewelry. Traditional galleries that are known for showing art work have begun to hold shows dedicated to jewelry in the past few years: One example is the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, which in 2010 hosted an exhibition showing the work of Swiss jewelry designer Suzanne Syz.
Art jewelry doesn’t have to necessarily be shown in galleries; bracelets, rings, and necklaces that are meant to be worn can still be considered as art. FABLOGUE designers Andrea Corson, Vanessa Lianne, and Oleana all create innovative styles that deserve to be considered as works of art. Their work can be viewed at www.fablogue.com