Christie's presents Art to Wear jewellery by artists

Art to Wear encourages viewers to explore a piece of jewellery not just as an expression of its materiality but as an extension of an artist’s oeuvre, a site of experimentation and artistic freedom.
Christie's presents Art to Wear jewellery by artists

Christie’s presents an online selling exhibition of jewellery, miniature artistic expressions by leading 20th century artists. Art to Wear is a partnership with Didier Ltd, a London-based gallery that specialises in twentieth-century artist-designed jewellery. Producing pieces to adorn the body of the wearer, artists including Salvador Dalí, Claude Lalanne, Georges Braque, and Alexander Calder found the medium provided a means to free their imagination, crafting portable artworks that are as functional as they are expressive. The exhibition will explore the creative process with photographs, sketches and texts giving viewers insight into this unique aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. The 17 objects presented transcend eras and channel art, innovation and technique to create luxurious and bespoke expressions suitable for daily wear. The exhibition will underline the cultural and art historical contexts within which these objects were brought into existence. Works from the exhibition are available for immediate purchase with a price range of £20,000-150,000.

Arman’s playful necklace encapsulates the sense of abandon that artists embraced when crafting wearable sculptures (illustrated, page one). The 19 small gold paint tubes form a classic V-shape around the neck. Harry Bertoia’s hand-hammered gong pendant (illustrated above, centre) echoes the principal exploration of sound that his work is renowned for, whilst simultaneously celebrating a form that appears ancient, and timeless. Bertoia first started making and indeed teaching jewellery while he was head of the metalwork department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art during the Second World War. As metal supplies dwindled during the war, Bertoia started to work out his ideas on a smaller scale, his jewels becoming maquettes with which to organise and develop his ideas. Claude Lalanne’s work has a sinuous, organic form, incorporating flora and fauna in a manner that is reminiscent of Art Nouveau, with a delicate infusion of surrealism and fantasy. The exhibition will include an 18ct gold front fastening necklace that is formed from articulated hydrangea flower petals arranged in a graduated manner (illustrated above, right).

Surrealism and Fashion proved immediate companions, and this was especially true of Surrealist jewellery. Salvador Dalí’s lobster telephone became one of the most iconic pieces of surrealist design and this is continued in the pair of earrings fashioned in the form of melting telephone receivers (illustrated above, left). Constructed from fine bone-like gold, they are decorated with rubies and diamonds, and were produced to order around 1949. Hans / Jean Arp’s surreal sterling silver necklace conjures the image of a broken bottle-head which is set with polished cabochon carnelian and chrysoprase eyes. Two flat moustache-shaped link to either side of the long rounded oval links.

French post-war jewellery is encapsulated by three very different personalities - Georges Braque’s textured gold chain confers an ancient, Giacometti-esque authority, the pendant cartouche with red-enamelled detail, perhaps a phoenix, suggestive of post-war reconstruction (illustrated page three, right). Georges Braque devoted the last two years of his life to designing jewellery when he took a fancy to creating a cameo ring for his wife on the occasion of her 80th birthday. By contrast, César’s life-sized matchstick pendant is pure Pop Art, a disposable wooden stick, of no intrinsic value, now made precious in gold. Niki de St Phalle’s The Key is an 18ct gold key with polychrome enamel dots on one side, and black enamel on the other, with the words “the key” written using diamonds. To be worn on a string around the neck, The Key fuses Pop Art with the bold energy of 1980s design.

Artists from the Americas pioneered innovative expressions within jewellery design. Alexander Calder’s brooches were often made as gifts for friends, as in the unique silver initials showcased in Art to Wear, which were made for Kurt Valentin to give as a gift. Taking its appearance as if from a fibula on a Roman cloak, the single stream of silver ribbon was hand hammered to form two mirrored ‘R’s that appear archaic, almost primitive (illustrated page three, left). Venezuelan Jesús Rafael Soto saw how Calder had integrated time and movement in sculpture and wanted to attempt the same in painting. He began creating pieces based on repetitions, rotations, serializations and progressions, which would become the foundation on which his future work would stand. The pair of large rhodium-treated silver and silver-gilt earrings see him explore three dimensional objects, becoming kinetic sculptures in their own right. Louise Nevelson’s unique rectangular pendant looks like an extension of her oeuvre painted in her typical matt black – a condensed, sculptural façade ready-to-wear.


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