NEW YORK — The Museum of Arts and Design will tonight honor Dr. Friedrich Wille and Simone Grunberger-Wille, the couple behind the Austrian jewelry company FreyWille, as well as artist Joyce J. Scott.
They will receive the LOOT Award for Contemporary Art Jewelry at an event to mark the opening of “LOOT: MAD About Jewelry,” the museum’s annual exhibition and sale of contemporary art jewelry, which runs through Friday. The event will introduce this year’s featured artists and pieces on display, which include more than 50 artists representing 23 countries. The annual LOOT Award is given to luminaries in the field that present jewelry as works of art. Previous honorees include Iris Apfel, Barbara Berger, and Axel Russmeyer.
Founded in 1951, FreyWille is a Vienna-based brand known for its hand-decorated designs based on the works of 19th- and 20th-century artists. Prices range from $685 for its Classic collection to $48,000 for pieces within the 18kt and Diamonds collection. Wille first partnered with founder Michaela Frey in the early Seventies, and became sole owner of the company in 1980.
“We are unique in the world,” Wille said of the brand. “We are working in many continents, and we know that we have no direct competition. If people want outstanding jewelry, they will find us.” Wille credits much of the success of the brand to its direct tie to the arts. “The art world is the background of our activity,” he said. “Everybody on our team loves art. I’m not an artist, but I’m the one who finds the things that define the style of our company. You cannot create something just out of the sky, you have to do a lot of research. You have to go to museums to get inspiration. My job is looking for new ideas for our future development.”
In recent years, FreyWille has produced limited-edition collections based on the artwork of Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, among others. Later this year, the brand will release a collection inspired by Claude Monet to coincide with the opening of its second New York location. To date, FreyWille owns more than 100 boutiques worldwide while remaining a completely privately owned company.
“I imagine [some] designers feel tremendous time pressure because they have to produce two, three, four times a year,” he said. “They work day and night. That is something I didn’t want. These designers are suffering, and I wouldn’t want to be the reason for anyone to be suffering….I want us to be a luxury company, but with a focus on art.”