While many pieces of jewellery are described as works of art because of the craftsmanship involved, some are literal works of art, like those on show at the Museum of Arts And Design in New York (MAD). Until 2 June, you can view a 130-strong collection of exceptional art jewellery, acquired by MAD over the past five years, as part of its new exhibition, Wear It Or Not. Add to this the vast archive of jewellery in MAD’s permanent collection and you have one very good reason to head to Manhattan.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, it is difficult to know whether these pieces have been designed to be worn, or displayed as you would a sculpture. Blurring the line between jewellery and art, it’s a fascinating mix of conceptual jewellery by avant-garde jewellers of the past, artists and the most imaginative artist jewellers at work today.
Some pieces, such as Heather White van Stolk’s Ring Swallowing a Pearl, are beautifully realised and wearable jewels. Turning the classic idea of a ring on its head, a tiny pearl nestles in a concave gold surround. A twisted necklace by Jocelyn Kolb, made up of a concertina of nylon folds, incorporates hidden LED lights, and Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright’s horn bracelet is part jewellery, part musical instrument. One of a series of functioning pieces of audio jewellery, put it to you lips, blow and out comes a convincing trumpet sound.
Other exhibits sit more comfortably in the realm of art, like jeweller Kiff Slemmons’ The Pointilist. One part knuckle duster, four parts sharpened pencil, it could double as a lethal weapon. When Kim Buck’s beautiful series of silver and gold brooches are placed together, they show the perfect imprint of a string of pearls. And William Harper’s self-portrait in ls is a wonder to behold. A wooden cask, pierced with nails of all shapes and sizes and containing an eclectic assortment of treasures, you could pore over it for hours.
Wear It Or Not runs until 2 June 2013 at the Museum of Arts And Design in NYC.
Maria Doulton is the founder of The Jewellery Editor.