From Bourgeois to Baldessari, last chance to see Hauser & Wirth’s unmissable jewellery show

‘Nose Earring’ in gold modelled by Rossy de Palma
‘Nose Earring’ in gold, by John Baldessari, 2016. Modelled by Rossy de Palma. © The artist. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery and Hauser & Wirth
(Image credit: Gorka Postigo)

This week presents a last chance to see Hauser & Wirth’s blinder of an artist-jewellery show at its New York outpost. Curated by the former model and London-based jewellery designer Celia Forner, The Portable Art Project is a moveable design feast of ‘wearable objects’ by 15 commissioned artists.

From Phyllida Barlow to Bharti Kher and John Baldessari, the show’s dynamism has much to do with the fact that all are currently practising artists, except Louise Bourgeois. In fact it is the asymmetric pair of silver and gold spiral cuffs Bourgeois created for the project in 2008 that is the pivot of the exhibition. These bold rope-like jewels are also central to the show’s success, being at once sensuous, covetable and wearable.

The notion of jewellery as fine art has long been a cloudy topic. But artist jewellery – pieces created for galleries by named artists – is not quite the same as art jewellery. The latter has emerged from the former as a genre generally dedicated to exploring unusual methods and humble materials, often with a socio-political bent in the Arte Povera mold. The movement gained momentum in the US in the 1950s and 60s and is often relegated to the applied arts category – or craft. As in, not as important as art.

It remains a limbo genre, due in part to the art jewellery community’s tendency to over intellectualise and add meaning. Yet, from Picasso and Ernst to Hirst and Koons, fine artists have long been happily sidetracked from canvas and bronze to the odd spot of jewellery design. This Hauser & Wirth addition to the genre bridges the gap with humour and, despite its own slight tendency towards academic worth – the pieces are billed as existing ‘somewhere between sculpture and bodily adornment’ – reveals artist jewellery as simply great design.

Whether it’s art or craft is surely not the point. And can artist jewellery really be ‘a personal connection’ between artist and wearer? Perhaps the answer is best left to the lucky owners. What this show does highlight is that artists make great jewellery because they seem to grasp that, ultimately, it is design to be worn. Hats off to Forner, whose canny collective so eloquently displays this oft-forgotten factor.

’Spiral’ cuffs in rose gold and yellow gold plated silver

’Spiral’ cuffs in rose gold and yellow gold plated silver, by Louise Bourgeois, 2008. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA, New York 

(Image credit: Gorka Postigo)

Gold toe ring

‘Aztek’, by Andy Hope, 1930. modelled by Rossy de Palma. © The artist. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

(Image credit: Gorka Postigo)

unique jewellery

Left, ‘Untitled’, by Subodh Gupta, 2013. Right, ‘Untitled’, by Mary Heilmann. © The artists. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth

(Image credit: Gorka Postigo)

brooch on back dress

‘untitled: brooch I’ and ‘untitled: brooch III’, both by Phyllida Barlow, 2015-16. modelled by Rossy de Palma. © The artist. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth 

(Image credit: Gorka Postigo)


‘Portable Art: A Project by Celia Forner’ is on view until 17 June. For more information, visit the Hauser & Wirth website


Hauser & Wirth
32 East 69th Street
New York


Caragh McKay has been a contributing editor at Wallpaper* since 2014. She was previously watches & jewellery director and is currently our resident lifestyle & shopping editor. Caragh has produced exhibitions and created and edited titles for publishers including the Daily Telegraph. She regularly chairs talks for luxury houses, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier among them. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese film revived a forgotten Osage art.