From Picasso to Koons, See Rare Jewelry as Art at the Bass Museum

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Salvador Dalí, Cuillére avec montre-peigne (spoon with comb), 1957

We've heard of clothing as art, shoes as art, and hair as art. So it's not a far stretch to expect jewelry to be art, too. Thanks to Diane Venet, this is now a reality that we can all gawk at at the Bass Museum of Art.

The curator got her start collecting when she first met her husband, sculptor Bernar Venet, in 1985. "He gave me a barre of silver that he twisted around my two fingers as an engagement ring," she notes. "This ring remains among my very favorites!"

The following Christmas and birthday, he gave her some pieces made by some of his close friends that were also artists. "The subject interested me so much that I started to learn and research about which artists had been challenged in the past, and who would be interested in doing a piece now," she continues. "I met other collectors, dealers, gallerists, and as the seed was planted in the soil, I went on [collecting] alone."

See also:
- Temporary Contemporary: The Bass Museum Redefines Street Art

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Nam June Paik, Sense Amplifier - Inhibit Driver, 2012

Venet has been collecting for almost 28 years, and owns more than 140 pieces of jewelry made by artists, both world-renowned in their field and up-and-coming. She follows auction sales all around the world, visits galleries, meets collectors. But you won't just see sculptors in her collection. She has pieces by such well known artists as Picasso, Man Ray, and Fontana. And you can see a huge chunk of it at her exhibit, "From Picasso to Koons, the Artist as Jeweler."

We caught up with Venet to discuss commissioning pieces, her process during the hunt, and some of her favorites.

Cultist: How do you come across these pieces of jewelry, considering few know these artists actually made them? Are they all commissioned?
Diane Venet: I have many friends in the field now who know me and about my collection and who sometimes offer me a piece for sale. As prices seem to have gone up now and thanks also to the different shows I have curated in great museums in New York (the MAD), Athens (the BENAKI Museum), in Valencia (the IVAM Museum), and also to some kind of major interest for the subject due to you, the journalists! it is difficult for me to go on buying the old masters. Calder makes tremendous prices at auction and Picassos, Man Rays or Fontanas are rare, so now and more and more my pleasure goes to commission artists of our generation and younger, too.

What is the process to commission an artist to make a piece of jewelry for you? Do you suggest the materials? Do you give any idea to what you're looking for? Or is it all up to the artist?
First I think of artists I know or whose work I respect a lot as painters or sculptors. Then, upon meeting them, I try to convince them to think about a wearable piece. It is always a challenge and of course I let them do what they want. Rarely do I suggest a material or a size. Then I propose to produce always a small edition, if not a unique piece. For the productions I now work with my daughter Esher de Beaucé. She recently opened a gallery specialized in jewelry by artists in Paris (galerie MiniMASTERPIECE, at 16 rue des Saints Peres). We have just produced a small edition with Lee UFAN, famous Korean sculptor and a new piece (a brooch) by [my husband] Bernar Venet. We also acquired a very beautiful pendant by Francois Morellet, among others.


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Bass Museum of Art

2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: General

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