I was recently invited to the opening of Van Cleef & Arpel’s Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition at New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum.
This is the second time the jeweller has hosted a large scale exhibition in two years – the first was at the Mori Museum in Tokyo – but this time round it focused more on the house’s innovative design and technical skills. I like how it uncovered the American part of Van Cleef’s history I never knew existed – one of the Van Cleef brothers settled in the city during World War II, established the house on Fifth Avenue and never left. Many of their pieces were actually produced and made in New York and over half the jewels on display were on loan from American collectors or museums for the first time.
The venue – a Georgian mansion that was once owned by Industrial magnate Andrew Carnegie- was brought to life by scenographer and French designer Patrick Jouin who turned it into an intimate home filled with 350 jewels, accessories and objets d’art. What struck me most was the fact that almost all of them still looked modern a century later.
There were several themed sections including Innovation, Transformations, Nature, Exoticism, Personalities and Fashion. I especially enjoyed the Personalities section which featured the house’s most elaborate commissions for style icons such as Wallis Simpson, Grace Kelly (her original 1970s Alhambra took pride of place), Barbara Hutton and Jackie O.
Read more about it in my article in SCMP on March 9, 2011
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels is on until June 5, 2011 at the Copper Hewitt Museum, 2 East 91st Street, New York. For more information visit www.cooperhewitt.org/setinstyle.