‘Sculpture to wear’: artists’ jewellery intrigues at Sotheby’s

Jewellery by artists including Man Ray, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and Alexander Calder is set to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s East Hampton, in a selling exhibition

Left, snake earrings and right, large apple earring worn on woman
Left, Niki de Saint Phalle, Snake Cufflinks, 18ct green and rose gold, enamel and articulated tongues, edition of 19. Right, Claude Lalanne, Little Apple Earrings, 2017, galvanised copper with clips on reverse, unique
(Image credit: Louisa Guinness Gallery)

‘Sculpture to Wear’, a partnership between Louisa Guinness, of London’s Louisa Guinness Gallery, and Tiffany Dubin, of Sotheby’s New York, puts jewellery made by contemporary artists as the focus of a new selling exhibition at Sotheby’s East Hampton. It includes artist jewellery by the likes of Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and Alexander Calder.

‘I believe that artist jewellery is an introduction to the artist’s essence, much in the same way as drawings, but jewellery has the added extraordinary magic of being art that you can wear,’ says Dubin. ‘This tactile connection reinforces how an individual has chosen to define his or her own aesthetic.’

Woman holding a blue pendant

Anish Kapoor, Water Pendant, Form I, Large, 2013, 22ct yellow gold polished exterior with blue cold enamel interior, edition of five + two AP in collaboration with Louisa Guinness

(Image credit: Image by Iona Wolff, courtesy of Louisa Guinness Gallery)

Necklace of small women dancing

Bill Copley, Chaîne pour une femme enceinte, conceived 1972, 18ct rose gold, edition of nine

(Image credit: Courtesy of Louisa Guinness Gallery)

Jewellery encompasses sensual curves and playful motifs in pieces that encapsulate the artist’s aesthetic. Jeff Koons draws a rabbit in platinum and dangles it from a pendant in a mischievous Playboy reference, while Anish Kapoor works with a goldsmith to cast hypnotising pools in pink and blue enamel. Claude Lalanne’s apples of galvanised copper add an elegance to earlobes; Alexander Calder’s brooch is a sculptural scribble of brass; Gavin Turk’s discarded apple cores are given new life when coated in gold or silver. Man Ray’s piece, complete with detachable pendant, is inspired by his 1936 painting, The Lovers – setting an intimate scene of a kiss of golden lips on the neck, it is wryly offset with the characteristically surreal touch of a hole, which the wearer can look through to alter their vision.

‘Artist jewellery pieces are small art treasures that reflect not only the time when they were made but also the artist’s position on the art stage within a network of institutions – museums, galleries, foundations, art collections and schools,’ adds Dubin. ‘This all adds to the fun of collecting works of sculpture that can be worn, carrying within the intrinsic characteristics of the design and the artist’s vision.’

For Guinness, the artists’ lack of formal jewellery training brings a welcome, instinctive rawness: ‘Painters and sculptors are not jewellers, and they do not spend most of their time making or designing jewellery,’ she says. ‘This is important because they are not trained in the field, and approach jewellery from a conceptual perspective. Artists are free of a goldsmith’s technical constraints and therefore are not restricted from conceiving designs that might elude a classic jeweller. They make things that are more challenging to wear and interesting to see – they bring a fresh perspective.’

Small platinum rabbit on a necklace

Jeff Koons, Rabbit Necklace, 2005-2009, platinum, edition of 50 + five AP

(Image credit: Photographed by Richard Valencia, courtesy of Louisa Guinness Gallery)

Gold necklace with a pair of golden lips

Man Ray, Les Amoureux, 1975 design, 18ct gold on torque with pin on reverse, edition of 12 executed by GEM – Montebello

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Louisa Guinness Gallery)

Sculpture to Wear’ from the Louisa Guinness Gallery London is on show at Sotheby’s East Hampton from 3 to 28 August


Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.