Sotheby’s has once again united with jewellery writer and curator Melanie Grant, in a celebration of Black jewellery designers. ‘Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment’, will take place at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries, London, and builds on a September 2021 New York exhibition (‘Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance’).
Twenty-five designers are showcasing more than 70 pieces in the selling exhibition, responding to Grant’s theme of the Enlightenment with exclusively created pieces. Designers including Maggi Simpkins, Catherine Sarr, Karen Smith, Ten Thousand Things, Lorraine West, Thelma West, Jacqueline Rabun, Lola Fenhirst and Harwell Godfrey join new names including Disa Allsopp, Gina Love, Roxanne Rajcoomar-Hadden, Latoya Boyd, Shola Branson and Ndidi Eubia in considering the period defined by a new intellectualism and growth.
‘For me, this second exhibition is about our expansion from that moment of conception in New York last September,’ Grant says. ‘In practical terms this has involved inviting eight new artists to take part, bringing our roster to 25.
‘As we forge ahead, having showcased the talents of old masters Art Smith and Winifred Mason last time, only contemporary artists will now be featured, because this show is about the future and where we go from here. It is a chance to experiment and I’ve asked each artist to create something new to them to cement this new era as barriers of all kinds come down.’
For Grant, the jewellery itself becomes a tangible way of marking a unique moment in history. ‘The tsunami of interest we experienced in Black creativity may be quieter now, but we cannot forget its lessons,’ she adds. ‘There are fears that as things return to normal, our efforts to elevate Black design will be eclipsed by more recent events, but the work is too good and once seen never forgotten.
‘I’ve witnessed a flurry of other exhibitions and had conversations with so many other Black creatives following “Brilliant & Black”, that I truly believe a door has been opened. The jewels themselves act like artefacts marking our progress at this very moment in history. We won’t have a $1m ring this time but as we move from adornment closer to art, that understanding of intrinsic value seems to matter less. We are in a period of enlightenment – a modern enlightenment exploring the depth and breadth of our talent today for all those who don’t have a voice or opportunity to do so themselves.’
On view at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries from 22 September to 2 October 2022 in full, and until the end of October as an edit. All Brilliant & Black pieces exhibited will be available for purchase, either in person, or directly through Sotheby’s Buy Now marketplace at sothebys.com
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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.
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