Louisa Guinness knows that some prefer a Picasso on their walls, while others prefer to wear one. The London-based gallerist helps those who prefer to wear their art to do so.
Guinness is a pioneer in artist jewelry, having established it as a field in its own right, beginning with her 2003 London landmark exhibition, “Past and Present: Jewelry by 20th Century Artists.” Collecting pieces by 20th-century masters and collaborating with contemporary artists, Guinness recognized that artists, especially sculptors, understand three dimensions and have a special facility for designing wearable pieces. They bring a fresh approach to materials and techniques while creating more intimate and often very different versions of their signature artworks.
“These works challenge and expand traditional ways of wearing and seeing jewelry,” Guinness said. “The collectors who choose these pieces have a thoughtful relationship to the objects they acquire and a real personal appreciation when they wear them.”
Man Ray’s “Le Trou,” a ring, was designed to change the wearer’s perceptions of their surroundings, keeping with the surrealists’ goal of altering everyday reality. Alexander Calder’s one-of-a-kind Brass Brooch from 1940 is any collector’s prize. Jeff Koons’ platinum “Rabbit” pendant has a special chameleon-like quality, a symbol of Resurrection and Easter, or Playboy, or something else. It invites multiple interpretations, also standing alone as a strong small sculpture.
This summer, Guinness collaborated with Tiffany Dubin of Sotheby’s to bring a brand new exhibition of artist jewelry to the Hamptons. “Sculpture To Wear” was on display and for sale at Sotheby’s East Hampton, featuring works by Niki de Saint Phalle, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Claude Lalanne, Man Ray and Jesús Rafael Soto, to name a few.
The pair wants to help others curate their own artist jewelry collections. “The discerning collector understands that they can own a masterpiece created at a human scale,” Dubin said. “Claude Lalanne’s has always been a favorite; Venezuelan Op and Kinetic artist Jesús Rafael Soto’s works are magnificent; British Contemporary artist Christopher Thompson Roys is another standout. ‘The Water Rings’ by artist Anish Kapoor are any woman’s dream (I’ll take mine in 18k white gold with a pink enameled interior) and Rob Wynne’s Octopus ring would set my summer on the right path.”
Wearable pieces like these bring art out into the wider world. “I like the idea of these pieces being a distilled version of an artist’s sculpture on a smaller scale,” Dubin said. “It is portable or more easily experienced by more people when worn out. The experience of someone seeing these pieces as a brooch or earrings allows them to get closer and really appreciate the craftsmanship. The artist’s hand is felt and seen in more hand-crafted pieces such as with Claude.
“One of my favorites pieces from the collection is a William Copley necklace with naked girls running around,” Dubin said. “I was introduced to Copley’s work a few years back through an exhibit Adam Lindeman curated and was struck by his American Pop Art sensibility mixed with Surrealist humor and riffing sexuality. The necklace he made for Louisa Guinness shows his high style, with 10 of his cartoonish figures suspended from a circular link chain. This is an object that can be played with and manipulated in various ways. I think this is the absolute expression of the artist’s DNA.”
“Most pieces at the exhibition are signed and are either one-of-a-kind or limited edition,” Guinness said. “They can be worn and exhibited as a piece of art. Each piece comes with its display support — keeping such jewelry in a drawer when not worn would be an absolute waste of art; why not enjoy it as a decorative piece?”
This exhibition with Guinness follows
Dubin’s successful Sotheby’s Pop-Up in Palm Beach, Florida with James de Givenchy’s Taffin Collection. They plan to continue celebrating wearable art through an international lens, returning to Palm Beach in the fall and continuing on to New York City; London, England and Taipei, Taiwan.