Marking Sotheby’s first ever dedicated sale of artist jewelry, Art as Jewelry as Art will present jewelry and accessories by famed masters of the 20th century and beyond, bringing together a fascinating variety of works by major Modern Artists and contemporary visionaries who have explored the world of wearable art.
Featuring works by Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, Claude Lalanne, George Braque, Lucio Fontana, Pol Bury, Kiki Smith, Salvador Dalí, Harry Bertoia, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Jesús Rafael Soto, and many more, the auction spotlights the relationship between art and adornment, telling the story of how these artists they explored jewelry design, and in doing so, furthered their artistic practice.
“This selection of artists’ jewelry aims to reintroduce these works to the discerning collector in a new context, and as a defined category of art for a collection that is not only intended for adornment, but also as a means of personal expression,” says Tiffany Dubin, Artist Jewelry Specialist and Head of Sale, Art as Jewelry as Art.
“These works were not made to be squirreled away in a drawer, vanity, or safe; they were meant to be celebrated on the body in a vibrant, interactive fashion. The way we define ourselves and the art we connect with are integral parts of who we are and is what ultimately defines us as creative beings. Those who forge their path as collectors will also embrace the vision that has guided me in bringing together these original and beautiful works that will only become more valued over time.”
Composed of nine chapters, the thoughtfully curated auction explores jewelry as Kineticism, Abstract Expressionism, Sculpture, Surrealism, Avant-Garde, Maverick, Minimalism, Modernism, and Visionaries.
Art as Jewelry as Art will be open for bidding online from 24 September through 4 October, with works on public view at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries alongside the Contemporary Curated exhibition.
Jewelry as… Kineticism
Artists have incorporated motion into their work since the early twentieth century, and Kineticism was an important art movement in the late 1950s and 1960s. Artists experimented with geometric shapes, creating works that were static, yet gave the viewer an impression of movement. Kinetic jewelry functions in much the same way: while maintaining a constant linear relationship to the wearer’s body, it reacts to their movement in three- dimensional space.
Alexander Calder, the renowned twentieth-century American artist, is best known for his kinetic mobiles and monumental sculptures, yet he also designed and created about 1,800 pieces of wearable art in the form of jewelry — eight of which are included in this sale. A highlight of the group is the famous Lady Kenneth Clark Tiara, a unique brass work dating to 1937-38, named after its first owner and wearer, Lady Clark, the wife of English art historian and former Director of the National Gallery in London, Sir Kenneth Clark. Featuring Calder’s signature spiral design, this important piece has appeared in various retrospective shows and jewelry exhibitions at leading art and design institutions such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.
Jewelry as…Abstract Expressionism
In Italy, the roots of the Abstract Expressionist movement are found in the School of Rome – a group of artists active from the 1930s to the 1950. In 1946, avid art collector and third-generation jeweler Mario Masenza approached contemporary artists with an offer to work with his goldsmiths and create jewelry. Among these artists were Abstract Expressionists from the School of Rome, including Franco Cannilla and Afro Libio Basaldella. This collaboration lasted over thirty years with more than thirty artists and is credited with breathing fresh life into goldsmithing in Post-war Italy. An early group of Abstract Expressionist works from the Rome School are on offer, highlighted by a circa 1965 Gold Link Bracelet for Masenza-Roma by Franco Cannilla. The present bracelet is a testament to Cannilla’s refined sense of biomorphism and ability to capture malleable, weathered forms in immovable and muted gold. A similar example was included in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s 2021 exhibition titled ‘Simply Brilliant Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s.’
The term ‘maverick’ refers to an individual that acts independently of a tradition. Many daring artists have ventured into new territory and adopted new approaches, with a commitment to having their work seen in new ways. Highlighted in the sale are pieces by fiercely independent individuals who broke out of the mold in creating jewelry as art and demonstrated a ‘maverick’ style of artistic expression, led by a ‘double-barreled’ gold, diamond, and onyx ring designed by Ettore Sottsass (called ‘the godfather of Italian cool’ by The Guardian) for Cleto Munari — one of the first pieces belonging to their collaboration in the 1980s.
Visionaries look beyond current trends and imagine what heirlooms of the future will be. Visionary jewelry makers create powerful works that are very personal, inspirational, and aspirational while exploring novel ways for jewelry to interact with the individual who wears it. Talisman necklaces designed by Michelle Oka Doner reflect the renowned artist’s interest in mythology, while Yury Revich’s ‘The Expressivity: Shostakovich Eye Jewelry’ is inspired by the surreal beauty of music composer Dimitri Shostakovich. James de Givenchy is a recognized visionary whose work will be a classic reference for future generations, just as we now look back to early jewelry artists such as Suzanne Belperron (1900-1983), who pioneered a new aesthetic in jewelry.
Some of these visionary works of art in miniature were created expressly for this auction, like those by Luna Benaï and Metagolden. Benaï’s handmade wooden jewelry box, in the shape of a rhombicuboctahedron, incorporates traditional Amazigh symbols and Metagolden’s gold and emerald ‘Ethereum Expedition’ ring resembles a geodesic dome. Its buyer will also walk away with a ‘digital twin’ NFT.
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