After a rainy lunchtime meeting with a client in the Diamond District last week the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and I decided it was high time I took a walk to check out the Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD).
Featuring over 450 jewelry pieces from Barbara Berger’s astounding 4,000+ piece personal collection, this exhibition curated by Harrice Simons Miller is the result of over 50 years of collecting. The daughter of a diamond merchant, Barbara purchased her first pair of Chanel earrings at a flea market as a teenager and never looked back. “I buy what I like and it’s usually love at first sight,” Barbara says in her book that showcases over 200 of the pieces from the exhibit.
Walking through the exhibit is like being inside of Barbara’s jewelry box. Adding to this feeling, MAD showcases the pieces not only in standing glass displays, but also in rows and rows of pull out drawers. Each time you open another drawer the surprise of what you might find is elating. It is a very intimate experience to see the jewelry pieces that have special meaning to Barbara. Along with the item descriptions there is also a handy audio tour that you can listen to on your mobile device while strolling the exhibit.
This 24 karat gold and brass piece from 1987 is dubbed the “gold cymbals necklace” in my mind, but is actually titled Gong (not that far off) by Robert Lee Morris. It was a gift from the artist to Barbara in 1995, and I just love the layered movement of the brass circles in the necklace. I could imagine this with a fantastic strapless tribal or floral print dress and sandals. Or a crisp white dress shirt and fitted black skirt. The possibilities are endless!
I am IN LOVE with this necklace by Swiss artist Verena Sieber-Fuchs. This untitled piece from 1988 may seem to be created from delicate feathers plucked from a magical pink bird, but it is in fact created from butcher paper and silver wire. How amazing is that? Each thin slice of paper gives a light, fluffy, and utterly feminine feeling. Couldn’t you imagine a ballerina wearing this to mimic the plume of her tutu? So ethereal!
This necklace made by Etro (an Italian company) in 1990 is created from velvet and metal, and for me it evokes the crisp and cool beginning of autumn. Maybe it’s the velvet, or the jewel-toned hues (especially the deep burgundy) that remind me of falling leaves and the start of sweaters and jeans. I also appreciate that this necklace is not perfectly symmetrical in its design. Just a fun and playful piece!
If the pink butcher paper “feather” necklace was my favorite piece of the exhibit, this metal feather necklace by Chanel might be my second favorite. I adore the asymmetrical design of the feathers on this, which I can just imagine laying exquisitely over the right shoulder of the wearer. It is simple but completely fabulous.
I could go on and on with photos of the jewelry at this exhibit, there were just so many interesting pieces. I really appreciate how wide-ranging Barbara’s taste is. She can have light and feminine pieces like some of those above, and then you turn the corner and you see this necklace by Daniel Von Weinberger:
Titled “Imprisoned in Fluo”, this necklace is a conglomeration of plastic toys, from glow-in-the-dark frogs to a masked superhero caught in the footbed of a rubbery pink shoe. Even if it’s not your taste to wear for a night out on the town, it’s fun to look through it and see all the little pieces tangled within.
After delighting over all the interesting jewelry I made my way up to the sixth floor, which has both a learning center and a workroom for the current artist-in-residence. The learning center is a bit like walking into summer camp — several tables topped with all kinds of creative supplies. My favorite area was the jewelry making table, of course. Super inviting cups and bins full of beads, sequins, and unusual cast offs were available to string and wire wrap. After seeing all the fantastic costume jewelry from the exhibit my creativity was peaked and I was ready to dig in. I made this fun necklace, and it took everything in my power not to just stay there all day and create more:
After prying myself from the crafts table (seriously, make sure to hang out up there if you go to see the exhibit) I went to the room next door to see what the artist-in-residence was doing. That day it was David Mandel, a jewelry designer who has several pieces in the Fashion Jewelry exhibit. Having created jewelry for theater and live events for over twenty years, you may have seen his larger-than-life pieces in the 2012 Victoria’s Secret runway show:
David was wonderful to speak with, and I was especially fond of the piece he is currently working on in the artist’s room, a jewelry shirt called Urban Grind:
And here is the back (in somewhat different lighting):
The vertical jewelry strips in this shirt are detachable, and with hooks along the neckline that means that this shirt is completely customizable. Mix and match sections of the shirt to create a different look each day. Isn’t that so innovative and fun? Also, note the plastic googly eyes within the design. When wearing a jewelry shirt it’s important not to take yourself too seriously!
As I said, there are a million more pieces from the exhibit that I would love to show you, but that would ruin the fun of seeing it yourself! The exhibition will run at MAD until January 20th, 2014, but some portions will close on September 22nd, so if you are in NYC make sure to check it out before then.
Have you already checked out the exhibit? What was one of your favorite pieces? Did you try and pick up one of the Barbara Berger books on display only to find it was glued to the table to prevent stealing? Yeah, I didn’t either 😉
P.S. Although I mention the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) a million times in this blog post, I was not paid or perked to write about this exhibition. I am simply a lover of gorgeous jewelry!