When Fine Art Becomes Fashion

New York show features wearable art from 15 contemporary artists.
22 May, 2017
A remarkable piece of jewelry first launched the idea to commission globally recognized artists and sculptors for a show that presented wearable art.
The genesis of that idea dates back to 2008, when art collector and formal model Celia Forner and dealer Iwan Wirth met over dinner at the Kronenhalle in Zuric. The conversation turned to a brooch designed by the late Louise Bourgeois. The eclectic artist was acquainted with Forner, who became determined to create the wearable art show.

Nearly a decade later, the show is a reality and Hauser & Wirth have given it a home in New York. It features wearable art from 15 different creators, some unique pieces and some editions with prices ranging from USD$15,000 up to $120,000. The participating artists, who include John Baldessari, Cristina Iglesias, Matthew Day Jackson and Pipilotti Rist, designed jewelry and accessories in a range of metals, enamel and stones, ranging from the traditional gold and silver to pieces crafted from aluminium.
Bourgeois often worked in metals, and was noted for her suspended aluminium sculptures. Iglesias, taking a page from the 20th century artist, designed a set of three aluminium pieces of body armor worn at the hip, shoulder and wrist. Iglesias typically works in Madrid as a sculptor and installation artist, often choosing industrial materials. She envisions the body as a scaffolding for jewelry, illustrating a key principle shared by the Portable Art Project participants. The artists are accustomed to having full and final control over their creations, but with wearable art, that power shifts to the person who wears it.

Indian artist Subodh Gupta says that wearing an artwork can completely change its meaning, and the original vision and intent of its creator. The jewelry is an unfinished piece until it is completed by the owner, which is less the experience of the sculptor and painter than it is perhaps for a fashion designer.
"You have to hand that over to the person wearing the work," Gupta said. Necklaces are his own contribution to the show, designed in the shape of jars that spill over with emeralds and diamonds.

Artist Michele Oka Doner designed the pieces that seem the closest artistically to the clinging vine-like cuffs Iglesias offered in aluminium. In this case, the artist hoped to capture the organic forms of the sea, and designed a necklace and matching bracelet to evoke the sense of plankton sea life clinging to the body. The wearable art is made in bronze with diamonds.
Most of the pieces are rings, necklaces and earrings one typically thinks of as jewelry; artist Andy Hope 1930 intentionally made his gold rings without details, so they would be classic and timeless. The Iglesias aluminium art is a departure from that tradition, but so is the work of some of the other contributors.

Matthew Day Jackson took a different twist on interpreting the inspiration of Bourgeois and created sculptures of metal and wood with detachable rings to be worn as jewelry. John Baldessari designed "Mr. Bluebird on My Shoulder," which features a small bird crafted from enameled silver and diamonds. The bird perches on a cuff made of metal and suede that rests on the shoulder to support the artwork.
Ultimately, this gallery exhibit relies on unique materials and interpretations but the jewelry displays also caused another difference from many art shows: they use more mannequins than most exhibits do.
Banner image: Hauser & Wirth