Sotheby’s Art As Jewelry As Art Exhibition/Sale


Sotheby’s has been producing some amazing exhibitions and exhibition/sales. From its London’s Tiara exhibition, which was held in celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee from May 28 through June 15, 2022, to the two editions of Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment to the newest exhibition at Sotheby’s New York entitled Art As Jewelry as Art, the auction house has featured the historical, royal, past, present and future and the most revolutionary of jewelry design.

The exhibition Art as Jewelry as Art explores the movement which became known in the 20th century as wearable art. Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, Claude Lalanne, George Braque, Lucio Fontana, Pol Bury, Kiki Smith, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Jesús Rafael Soto James de Givenchy Suzanne Syz are just some of the masters of this jewelry universe whose works are featured in the exhibition/sale.

Says Tiffany Dubin, Artist Jewelry Specialist and Head of Sale, Art as Jewelry as Art. “This selection of artists’ jewelry aims to reintroduce these works to the discerning collector in a new context, and as a defined category of art for a collection that is not only intended for adornment, but also as a means of personal expression,” She continues, “These works were not made to be squirreled away in a drawer, vanity, or safe; they were meant to be celebrated on the body in a vibrant, interactive fashion. The way we define ourselves and the art we connect with are integral parts of who we are and is what ultimately defines us as creative beings. Those who forge their path as collectors will also embrace the vision that has guided me in bringing together these original and beautiful works that will only become more valued over time.”

The exhibit is curated into what Sotheby’s describes as nine chapters that explore different aspects of jewelry as art.

I have paraphrased Sotheby’s descriptions to include the different chapters of the auction.

“Jewelry as… Kineticism incorporated motion and was a significant art movement in the late 1950s and 1960s. Artists experimented with geometric shapes, creating works that were static, yet gave the viewer an impression of movement.


Alexander Calder is renowned for his kinetic mobiles and monumental sculptures. Yet, he also designed and created about 1,800 pieces of wearable art in the form of jewelry, eight of which are included in this sale. A highlight of the group is the famous Lady Kenneth Clark Tiara, a unique brass work dating to 1937-38, named after its first owner and wearer, Lady Clark, the wife of English art historian and former Director of the National Gallery in London, Sir Kenneth Clark (picture on first page, estimate $200/300,000). Featuring Calder’s signature spiral design, this important piece has appeared in various retrospective shows and jewelry exhibitions at leading art and design institutions such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. “

Jewelry as…Abstract Expressionism formed its roots In Italy, the movement found in the School of Rome with a group of artists active from the 1930s to the 1950s. This collaboration lasted over thirty years and was credited with breathing fresh life into goldsmithing in Post-war Italy. An early group of Abstract Expressionist works are on offer, highlighted by a circa 1965 Gold Link Bracelet for Masenza-Roma by Franco Cannilla.

Jewelry As…Sculpture explored three-dimensional design that appeals to both the visual and tactile senses. Known for his radical technique of compressing objects and his fanciful representations of animals and insects, French sculptor César Baldaccini, often compacted diverse objects to produce his totem sculptures. He employed similar techniques when making jewelry, just on a smaller scale, as demonstrated in a signed ‘Compression’ Pendant.

Jewelry as…Surrealism. This movement was seen in art and literature. It sought to unleash the creative potential of the unconscious, using dream-like scenes, symbolic images, and illogical juxtapositions to contrast the real and the unreal. Spanish artist Salvador Dalí is synonymous with the Surrealist movement. Though perhaps most famous for his 1931 landscape painting The Persistence of Memory, which now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Dali worked in many other mediums, including sculpture, fashion, filmmaking, and jewelry. We have highlighted this chapter by a pair of earrings designed by Dalí in 1949, titled Persistence of Sound in 18K gold. The earrings resemble two melting telephone receivers, just as his famous painting depicted melting clocks. Other artists in this chapter include Man Ray, Louise Bourgeois, and Méret Oppenheim.

Jewelry as Avant- Garde pushed the boundaries of the acceptable, challenged norms, and boldly drove the arts in new directions. Proponents of this movement are Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Max Ernst, who shattered traditional notions of jewelry by experimenting with new materials and techniques. Two gold pendants designed by Ernst leads the group on offer, both appearing at auction for the first time. They are on offer from the artist’s family, including his Tête à Cornes — one of the artist’s most recognizable objects and part of his collaboration with renowned goldsmith Francois Hugo in the late 1950s.

Jewelry as Maverick… refers to an individual that acts independently of a tradition. Many daring artists have ventured into new territory and adopted new approaches and commitment to having their work viewed in new ways. Highlighted in the sale are independent individuals who broke out of the mold by creating jewelry as art and demonstrating a ‘maverick’ style of artistic expression. This chapter is led by a ‘double-barreled’ gold, diamond, and onyx ring designed by Ettore Sottsass for Cleto Munari — one of the first pieces belonging to their collaboration in the 1980s.

Jewelry as…Minimalism was viewed as a philosophical reaction to modern art movements like Abstract Expressionism. The artistic style was prevalent among American visual artists in the 1960s and early 1970s and artists around the globe who took a stripped-down approach in their work to a lesser degree, including the creation of art jewelry.

Jewelry as…Modernism represented the post-war movement and developed a clean aesthetic, with sleeker designs differentiating new creations from the heavy jewelry of the 1940s. This created an atmosphere of experimentation and divergence from artistic tradition. Across Europe and America, artists used materials such as gold, silver, and gemstones in novel ways while also giving prominence to underappreciated mediums like wood, plastic, and enamel. The Modernist jewelry in this sale features pieces by Andrew Grima, Alan Gard, Charles de Temple, and Jean Vendome. Included in the exhibition/auction is Vendome’s set of Echo-style diamond, rutilated quartz, and 18K gold necklace and earrings

Jewelry as…Visionaries today continues to look beyond current trends and imagine what heirlooms of the future will be. Visionary jewelry makers create powerful, personal, inspirational, and aspirational works while exploring novel ways for jewelry to interact with the individual who wears it. James de Givenchy is a recognized visionary whose work will be a classic reference for future generations, just as we now look back to early jewelry artists such as Suzanne Belperron (1900-1983), who pioneered a new aesthetic in jewelry.”

The exhibition/auction will end at 5PM EST on October 4th, so if you are interested in any of these pieces and live close to Sotheby’s New York, pop round to see it and if you are interested in bidding, you can do so online or in person.