Diane Venet’s collection of jewellery designed by artists began when her fiancé, sculptor Bernar Venet, proposed to her by placing a twisted bar of silver on her finger in 1985, the first piece of jewellery he had made. This was followed with birthday and Christmas presents of bits of jewellery designed by his artist friends, such as César and Arman. Since then, Diane Venet has searched out such works by artists and her collection is now on show in Paris.

She says, “Very many times artists have made jewellery because they wanted to please a woman…that was the case for Picasso, and for many others”. Thus, rather than being created as a professional work or for money, it is the outcome of love.

Today the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is exhibiting her collection of 230 works, complemented by loans from galleries, collectors and artists’ families. Some 150 artists are represented. Few of them made their own jewellery, preferring to entrust their designs to experienced hands, like those of François Hugo, who was commissioned to turn Jean Arp’s cut-outs, Derain’s Crétoises and Dorothea Tanning’s inventions into wearable works. Similarly, Giancarlo Montebello in Milan had the same function for such artists as Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, the Pomodoro brothers and Niki de Saint- Phalle.

The exhibition presents works by the Surrealists, a section on nature, Wim Delvoye’s well-known Möbius pendants, and works by famous artists like Yayoi Kusama, Lucio Fontana, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol LeWitt, Pol Bury, Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei.

Though small, these works engaged not just their designer’s intellect but also, and primarily, their heart.

Exhibition From Calder to Koons, Artists’ Jewellery, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris – Until 8 July 2018

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