De Calder à Koons - the World of Art Jewelry

De Calder à Koons - the World of Art Jewelry

We seldom associate Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Man Ray or Damien Hirst withereth jewelry. Ever contemplated wearing a  Picasso around your neck or a Calder at your finger? The genius of these artists resides in part in their creative agility and disregard for rigid categories. Freed from the canons of jewelry, they create unique, wearable sculpture-like pieces. Often for a loved one – sometime on commission.

  Alexander Calder mobile Untitled - source Sotheby's

Alexander Calder mobile Untitled - source Sotheby's

Unlike classic precious jewelry, the value of artist jewelry is not in the material but rather in the artistic intent, the place of the piece in the artist’s oeuvre, the story behind the piece. Artist jewelry might not be immediately appealing to the eye or flattering to the neck. But peel off the layers of the story behind it and it comes out in all it’s glory. 


Much is being written about the dichotomy between jewelry and art. I am not sure it matters to worry about whether jewelry can be art or whether painters can make jewelry – that’s just basic corporatism.

Anish Kapoor large water pendant

One only needs to visit the Musee des Arts Decoratifs exhibit “De Calder à Koons,Bijoux d’Artistes. La collection ideale de Diane Venet” (on view until July 8th) to realise the vast richness and fluidity of the topic.

Alexander Calder necklace in hammered brass, 1950. Anthony Gormley Steel necklace Untitled, Diane Venet collection.

Diane Venet’s collection augmented by loans from galleries and collectors, displays the evolution of art jewelry through the work of over 150 artists and sweeps away any idea of hierarchy between art and jewelry. Benvenuto Cellini, Italian sculptor, musician and soldier, born in 1500, was recognised as one of the era’s most important goldsmith. Francois Hugo (son of Victor Hugo) as a goldsmith executed the works of Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. Duo artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster based a jewelry series on their iconic light sculptures.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster necklace Fucking Beautiful. Jean Cocteau gold brooch.

Art jewelry has been described as wearable sculpture – miniature art worn on the body. My favourite piece at the exhibit was the Alexander Calder necklace made of brass wire. It eludes both humility and majesty in the wearer. Perfect.
jean cocteau drawings.jpg
Max Ernst pendant Poisson 1961.jpg

We will visit the Musee des Arts Decoratifs during our Paris trip in October 2018. Email me at if you wish to know more about this fashionable adventure.

Max Ernst pendant Poisson, 1961.

Max Ernst Birds, 1921. Anthony Gormley A Case for an Angel, Tate Gallery. Anish Kapoor Cloud Gate 2006, photo Mark Warot. Tim Noble and Sue Webster sculpture Fucking Beautiful.

Sources:Musee des Arts Decoratifs website; “Art as Jewelry. From Calder to Kapoor” by Louisa Guinness. Diane Venet website. None of the photos are mine. Where possible I have identified the source or author.

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