When is jewellery art?

It is this right now, at The Bass Museum of Art, Miami's exhibition From Picasso to Koons: the artist as jeweller
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Trèfle brooch by Pablo Picasso
Trèfle brooch by Pablo Picasso

The distinction between art and craft is never a clear one. Artists like Ai Weiwei, Grayson Perry and Picasso have works in ceramic, while Warhol's commercial illustrations and ad campaigns sometimes took on a certain journeyman quality.

Yet the elevation of jewellery to the status of fine art is never easy. These items have an obvious decorative function and a long history in the craft tradition. However, this month The Bass Museum in Miami is challenging this easy categorisation with its exhibition From Picasso to Koons: The artist as jeweller.

 

 

Modern Head (1968) by Roy Lichtenstein
Modern Head (1968) by Roy Lichtenstein



Styling the pieces on display as “exceptional and little-known works of wearable sculpture,” the gallery has drawn together a wide variety of pieces, from the pop brooches of Roy Lichtenstein, through to the Cubist jewellery of Georges Braque, as well as more abstract pieces by Anthony Caro and Anish Kapoor.

Many forms, like Jeff Koons' bunny, are familiar sights in a contemporary art gallery; other pieces, such as a tiny Robert Rauschenberg, look more like a small part of a greater sculpture. Some, such as Damien Hirst's pharmacological charm bracelet, remind us of an artist's other works.

 

 

Rabbit Necklace (2005-2009) by Jeff Koons
Rabbit Necklace (2005-2009) by Jeff Koons


The items come from the collection of curator Diane Venet, and never appear to descend into gaudiness, yet instead sustain higher interests in a way befitting a good-quality contemporary art space like The Bass.

The show runs until 20 July, and certainly looks like a worthwhile exhibition, for both fine art enthusiasts and jewellery lovers. To find out more, go here. To view some of Venet's collection on line, go here. For more on this beautifully fine line between art and craft, consider our Art Nouveau book, The Pot Book, and The Glory of Byzantium and Early Christendom.


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