Art as jewelry: discovering the wearable art

Have you ever wondered about how it would be wearing a work of art? If you are thinking about precious Bulgari necklace, Boucheron pendants or Cartier diamonds, you’re way off.  And we’re not even talking to adorn yourself with a baroque frame for a gala evening. None of that.


We are talking about wearable art, specifically created by artists, painters and sculptors. Artworks that become jewels, or vice versa: the difference is very subtle. They are products developed by the same creative approach, having the same emotional power, the same artistic meaning. What changes is only the purpose: you do not just look at them, but you carry them.


Le petit faune
Pendant – Gold, 4 x 6 cm
Edition 3/20
Coll. Diane Venet

In this scenario, these jewels by artists contribute to create an emotional bond with the wearer: their value in fact is not measured in carats or with a hallmark, but through the relationship between creator and recipient, which is not only who’s wearing it, but also the one who shows the jewel to the world.


During the twentieth century, there have been many artists who have approached to jewelry making, ideally moved from an initial desire to homage a woman, a wife, a daughter or other loved ones. Picasso, for example, created some necklaces for Dora Maar between 1930 and 1940, as well as Calder, who designed the wedding ring for his wife. A trend that has also finally caught on in the fifties: despite art had embarked on the streets of conceptualism and abstract, many artists began to deepen the bond with crafts, creating works of art in miniature. Among the names, stand out those of Braque, Dali, Fontana, Giacometti, Spoerri, but also the most contemporary Haring, Koons, Yoko Ono and Kapoor.


Elisse Concetto Spaziale, 1967
Bracelet – Silver and pink lacquer
16 x 6 x 17 cm

Edition 5/150
Coll. Diane Venet

The area of jewelry by artists is still relatively little known, except among collectors and enthusiasts. Lately, however, the wearable art seems to have taken hold on the international scene, presenting to the world on several occasions.


The peak of this trend has been reached in 2011, when 220 miniatures of various artists have been exhibited in New York, at the MAD – Museum of Arts and Design, in occasion of the show “From Picasso to Koons. Artist’s jewellery”. Given the extraordinary success, the show has been replicated in other prestigious venues, winning praise around the world: Athens, Valencia, Miami, Seoul, and in 2015 in Venice (Vitraria Glass Museum, “Precious – From Picasso to Koons”, which ended last August). The next event is already scheduled for 2017, in Paris.

Installation view of Picasso to Koons: The Artist as Jeweler (2011) at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Photo courtesy the Museum of Arts and Design.

Behind the success of this exhibition, there is also the activity of Diane Venet, guest curator as well as lender of part of the exhibited works. Her prestigious collection of art jewelry is in fact one of the most important and numerically impressive in the world: “the result of an interplay between life stories and history of art” as she defines it.It all began when the husband, the sculptor Bernar Venet, created for her a small silver ring as wedding ring. Since that moment Diane Venet got into jewelry by artists, initially collecting pieces of Arman, César, Mimmo Rotella. A passion which grew up over the years, going so far as to commission jewelry to artists like Kader Attia, or Frank Stella .


Diane Venet says:” I’m careful to ask only those artists whom I think will find the request challenging and fun. It’s important they recognize that the jewel should be seen as an extension of their art-making”.


Assemblage Necklace, this work is a continuation of the edition started in 1974, completed in 2015, 18k yellow gold and enamel, GEM Montebelloedition of 3, face length: 13 cm, width: 8 cm

Louisa Guiness Gallery

An artist who certainly recognized the value of jewelry as artwork is Niki de Saint Phalle, current protagonist of our exhibition “DUO. Rebel souls, Kindred spirits. Intertwined destinies within art” together with her husband Jean Tinguely.

Less known than her Nanas or Shooting paintings, but still worthy of note, is in fact her production of jewelry, deservedly highlighted by a selling exhibition at Louisa Guinness Gallery in London, which opened last September 23 and will run until to 12 November. “Land of the Free” is the title of the exhibition, which presents many rare pieces, real “wearable sculptures” and celebrates the artist’s ability to translate her powerful visual language also in different and smaller scales.

All the jewels on display were made ​​between 1970 and 1978, thanks to the collaboration and close friendship between Niki De Saint Phalle and Giancarlo Montebello, historic Milanese jeweler and ” publisher of art jewelry” who worked with all major artists of the twentieth century, including César, Sonia Delaunay, Piero Dorazio, Lucio Fontana, Hans Richter, Larry Rivers, Jesús Soto and Alex Katz.

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