September 28, 2022

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Sotheby’s Is Hosting Its First Auction and Exhibition Dedicated to Artist-Designed Jewelry

This weekend, Sotheby’s is set to open Art as Jewelry as Art, a first-of-its-kind online auction and exhibition in New York (September 24–October 4, 2022) featuring jewelry designed by 65 major artists of the 20th century and today. From gilded, birdlike Georges Braque brooches inspired by Greek mythology to Louise Nevelson’s sculptural pendants to a pair of 18-karat gold Salvador Dalí earrings in the form of melting telephones—and dripping with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies—the pieces are at once adornment and art.

“These works were not made to be squirreled away in a drawer, vanity, or safe,” said Tiffany Dubin, the artist jewelry specialist and head of sale for Art as Jewelry as Art, in a statement. “They were meant to be celebrated on the body in a vibrant, interactive fashion.”

Alexander Calder's experimentation with sculptural forms included jewelry, such as this brass <i>Lady Kenneth Clark Tiara</i> (ca. 1937–1938). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Alexander Calder’s experimentation with sculptural forms included jewelry, such as this brass tiara for Lady Kenneth Clark (ca. 1937–1938). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The auction, she added, “aims to reintroduce these works as a defined category of art.” Incidentally, some of the included works have been exhibited in institutions such as New York’s Cooper Hewitt Museum and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

“I see this sale evolving into a department called ‘Art to Wear’,” Dubin told Artnet News. She is planning an American Modernism auction for next year, with a focus on studio jewelry, as well as an haute couture runway jewelry sale for 2024.

The mouth was a recurring motif in the work of sculptor Claude Lalanne; she molded those of friends and clients for Surrealist pieces like <i>Claude Lalanne for Zolotas Silver Necklace</i> (1975), which is believed to feature the lips of Yves Saint Laurent. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The mouth was a recurring motif in the work of sculptor Claude Lalanne; she molded those of friends and clients for Surrealist pieces like this silver necklace for Zolotas (1975), which is believed to feature the lips of Yves Saint Laurent. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“The works are miniature sculptures,” Dubin said. “Acquiring one of them allows the buyer to experience an intimate relationship with the piece itself, the artist who created it, as well as a direct connection to the art movement it reflects.”

Sourced from a range of private collections and estates, Art as Jewelry as Art will be presented in nine chapters focused different art forms (such as sculpture) and movements (Kineticism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism).

You’ll also find pieces specially commissioned from contemporary practitioners for the sale, including a rhombicuboctahedron-shaped jewelry box that Katia Luna Benaï carved from wood with traditional Amazigh symbols and an 18-karat gold pendant of kissing angels sculpted by Tom Otterness. Meanwhile, Francine Ballard, the founder the web3 emporium Metagolden, created a gold-and-emerald ring that resembles a geodesic dome, to be sold with a “digital twin” NFT.

Venezulan artist Jesús Rafael Soto designed these silver <i>Penetrable</i> earrings (1968) with silver-gilt moving rods, just as he was creating his large-scale pieces of the same name. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Venezulan artist Jesús Rafael Soto designed these silver Penetrable earrings (1968) with silver-gilt moving rods, just as he was creating his large-scale pieces of the same name. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“The works here represent historical moments of creative expression from Calder’s kinetic genius in the 1930s and 1940s to today’s visionaries, who are creating with their art what I view as the heirlooms not just of today, but of tomorrow,” Dubin said.

Currently in a digital-only preview, the auction will open for online bidding September 23, with the jewelry simultaneously on public view at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries. Hammer prices are estimated to range from under $1,000 to up to $300,000. The highest estimate is for a circa-1942 silver and cloth necklace by Calder; a similar piece was included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2008­–2009 “Calder Jewelry” exhibition.

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