You will no doubt recognize the names of the artists but the medium they used to make these creations will be unfamiliar to most in this special online auction and public exhibition by Sotheby’s.
Titled “Art as Jewelry as Art,” this sale will feature jewelry and accessories by some of the most innovative artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Louise Nevelson, Alexander Calder, Claude Lalanne, George Braque, Lucio Fontana, Pol Bury, Kiki Smith, Salvador Dalí, Harry Bertoia, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Jesús Rafael Soto.
The online auction will run from September 24 through October 4. The pieces in the sale will be on view during the same 11-day period at Sotheby’s New York headquarters. This is the auction house’s first dedicated sale of jewelry by modern contemporary artists.
“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,” says Tiffany Dubin, artist jewelry specialist, who is heading this sale. “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.”
The sale is being presented in nine chapters, exploring these jewels as Kineticism, Abstract Expressionism, Sculpture, Surrealism, Avant-Garde, Maverick, Minimalism, Modernism and Visionaries.
The auction highlights include:
The Lady Kenneth Clark Tiara by Alexander Calder, the 20th century American artist best known for his kinetic mobiles and monumental sculptures. This piece, which features his signature spiral design, 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. One of eight Calder pieces in the sale, its estimate is $200,000 – $300,000.
An early group of Abstract Expressionist works from the “School of Rome” are on offer, including a circa 1965 Gold Link Bracelet for Roman jeweler Mario Masenza by Franco Cannilla. Its estimate is $18,000 – $25,000. A similar example was included in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s 2021 exhibition titled “Simply Brilliant Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s.”
A signed “Compression” pendant by French sculptor César Baldaccini features his radical technique of compacting diverse objects to produce his totem sculptures. Its estimate is $40,000 – $60,000.
A pair of 18k earrings designed by Salvador Dalí in 1949, titled “Persistence of Sound,” resemble two melting telephone receivers, just as his famous painting depicted melting clocks. Its estimate is $150,000 – $200,000.
Two gold pendants designed by Max Ernst, both appearing at auction for the first time and 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. Its estimate is $20,000 – $30,000.
A “double-barreled” gold, diamond and onyx ring designed by Ettore Sottsass (known as “the godfather of Italian cool” by The Guardian newspaper) for Cleto Munari. Its estimate is $30,000 – $40,000.
A bracelet by Minimalist artist, Lucio Fontana, titled, Ellisse con Fori ‘Concetto Spaziale (“Ellipse with Holes Spatial Concept”). Its estimate is $80,000 – $100,000.
Modernist jewelry in this sale features pieces by Andrew Grima, Alan Gard, Charles de Temple, and Jean Vendome, including Vendome’s set of Echo-style diamond, rutilated quartz, and 18k gold necklace and earrings. Its estimate is $35,000 – $45,000.
Some of these visionary works of art in miniature were created for this auction, such as those by Luna Benaï and Metagolden. Benaï’s handmade wooden jewelry box, in the shape of a rhombicuboctahedron, incorporates traditional Amazigh symbols and Metagolden’s gold and emerald “Ethereum Expedition” ring resembles a geodesic dome. The latter piece includes a “digital twin” NFT. Its estimate is $7,000 – $10,000.