Fall exhibition brings 150 avant-garde works to the public, showcasing the limitless potential of jewelry design.
“Jewelry of Ideas: Gifts from the Susan Grant Lewin Collection,” opening Nov. 17, celebrates the recent gift from the renowned collector to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. On view through May 28, 2018, the exhibition, co-curated by Ursula Ilse-Neuman and Cooper Hewitt, features 150 brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings, and traces radical developments in jewelry from the mid-20th century to the present. Works on view highlight jewelry design’s expressive and innovative achievements, ranging from works that make a political statement by eschewing silver and gold for industrial materials, to pieces that employ found materials to tell a personal narrative.
“It is with much gratitude that Cooper Hewitt has accepted this collection of modern and contemporary jewelry from a champion of the field,” said Caroline Baumann, director of the museum. “The Susan Grant Lewin Collection significantly expands the range and depth of Cooper Hewitt’s jewelry holdings to encompass the inventive approach of the studio jewelry movement and the impact of later groundbreaking conceptual and materials-driven contemporary jewelry design.”
The exhibition captures the diversity and achievement of modern and contemporary jewelry designers from Germany, Holland, Japan, Israel, the United States and elsewhere. Many of the pieces confront social, political or personal concerns using unconventional materials and techniques. Contained within a ring may be a history of the mathematical proportions of the Palladian villas of the Veneto, as in the case of Giampaolo Babetto. Within a bracelet may be a rejection of the cult of the precious, as seen in Otto Künzli’s “Gold Makes You Blind,” where an 18-karat gold ball is encased in a rubber bangle.
“I have been collecting jewelry for decades and it only becomes more exciting as the field of conceptual jewelry design continues to flourish,” said Susan Grant Lewin. “I meet designers from around the world, so the collection is international in scope. I like to find the leaders and innovators—the most experimental jewelry designers—and I am thrilled that Cooper Hewitt is exposing their revolutionary work to the general public.”