PARIS — The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is holding an exhibit featuring a broad range of a rather distinct kind of jewelry — made by artists, not jewelers.
Titled “From Calder to Koons, Jewelry of Artists,” the show opens with the piece that sparked the whole endeavor: a strip of silver, twisted to coil around a finger. The gift, a creation by the French sculptor Bernar Venet, designed for his future wife, Diane Venet, marked the beginning of a decades-long treasure hunt.
“The gesture, touching for its spontaneity, had another effect on me,” said Venet said. It introduced her to the world of jewelry made by artists, rich with symbolism and charged with emotion. The circumstances are often highly personal when an artist ventures into jewelry making — it’s not just about reproducing the same thing in a smaller size.
“It’s a challenge for them,” said Karine Lacquemant, who curated the exhibit.
Thirty years into her mission, Venet has amassed more than 200 pieces and held exhibits around the world, including New York, Seoul, Venice and Riga, Latvia. But this one, her ninth, is the most wide-reaching, notable especially for the pairing of the pieces with artwork by the 150 artists featured, including ceramics, paintings, sculptures and photographs.
The ring that kicks of the exhibit sits next to a life-size sculpture from Venet’s husband consisting of large, steel arcs — incomplete circles.
Sponsored by the Italian jeweler Pomellato, the exhibit features work from Pablo Picasso, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Louise Bourgeois and Roy Lichtenstein.
Lacquemant said she was struck by “the diversity, the richness of the collection, to see so many artists that showed an interest in something personal.”
The show is complemented by a book published by Flammarion, a catalogue of artists and their works, organized alphabetically, certain to become a reference in a field attracting growing interest.
They’re not just museum pieces, insists Venet, who enjoys wearing items from her collection to support an artist holding a show, or as provocation.
“Sometimes I socialize in circles that have nothing to do with art,” said the former journalist. At times she’ll bring out jewelry by the controversial Spanish artist Santiago Sierra, including a necklace that spells out a message: “Diamond Traffic Kills.”
“When I go to a very chichi event, I’ll wear it — sometimes I have fun,” she said. What does the jewelry say about the artists? “We learn that they are human beings who can be in love,” offered Venet.