Haute Culture: French Institute Alliance Française Presents “Diane Venet: The Artist as Jeweler,” in Conjunction with MAD Museum’s “Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler”

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On Thursday, September 22, New York’s premiere French cultural institution, French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) hosted a talk with Diane Venet, guest curator of the Museum of Arts and Design’s current exhibition, Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler.

The intimate affair, enabled attendees to grasp, first-hand, Venet’s experience in researching her topic and amassing an impressive collection of works and the history that accompanies them.

A refined audience sat at neatly arranged, candle-lit tables in FIAF’s Skyroom, as Venet explained how the show focuses on relatively obscure, “wearable sculpture pieces” from 20th century master artists such as: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Max Ernst, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons, Louise Joséphine Bourgeois, and Nam June Paik.

Art versus craft is a differentiation that is key to Venet’s dialogue. Art includes painters and sculptures, whereas the works of Cartier, van Cleef & Arpels, and say—Chopard— are considered craft. After clarifying this to her audience, Venet breezed through a comprehensive narration of art as jewelry beginning with early innovators that created it by accident such as Cellini. Other pioneers named were Severini, Lalique, Gaudí, Klimt, and Fontana. Exhibitions of wearable art popped up in Paris, Italy, New York, and Boston. She detailed Alexander Calder’s hefty influence on popularizing sculpture jewelry; making it a success. Venet has incorporated several innovative and significant pieces from these artists in her show at MAD.

"Rabbit," 2005-2009. Signed Jeff Koons for Stella McCartney. Platinum necklace, edition 11/50. Collection Diane Venet. Right: "Tete Triangle," Max Ernst. Gold brooch, edition 8/8. Fabricator Francois Hugo. Collection Diane Venet. Photos: Sherry Griffin

She has also recently published a book on the matter, The Artist as Jeweler (Rizzoli, September 2011). According to Venet, nearly all of the truly unique jewelry pieces were created as personal gifts for family, lovers, and friends. Through her book and the exhibit, Venet demonstrates how these works provide a rare window into the private lives of their creators. In fact, the subject is one close to Venet’s own life experiences, as her husband is sculptor Bernar Venet. Over the years, Venet has enriched her own collection of jewelry that her husband created for her, with unique pieces by friends and fellow artists.

Venet’s extensive exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design includes over 190 masterpieces from an array of artists, not known as jewelers. While these works of jewelry are often evocative of the artists’ characteristics, they also mark a distinctive creative departure.

Following the talk, Venet hosted a small panel of friends—collectors, gallerists, and aficionados—who answered questions and spoke in brevity of their experiences with wearable art. Immediately after, fine wines were poured and Venet signed copies of her book at a small reception.

The talk was co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

Picasso to Koons: Artist as Jeweler was previous on view this year at La Piscine, Musée d’Art et d’Industrie at Roubaix, Lille. The exhibit will run in New York through January 8, 2012 at the Museum of Art and Design.

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