The wearable art on display at the museums profiled below are in a class all their own, in terms of craftsmanship, provenance and pure imagination. From masterpieces steeped in centuries of tradition to the knife’s edge of avant-garde, there’s a treasure trove of inspiration for just about every type of jewelry admirer. Some of these exhibits are only up for a few more months, though, so you better hop to it!
(And while you’re at it, don’t forget to go see Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century at the Denver Art Museum, which we previewed in our spring Jewelry Exhibits Not to Miss post here on The Studio.)
The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas. Runs through December 7, 2014.
Can’t get enough mid-century modern design? From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith delves into the life and work of New York designer Art Smith. Often wrought from “lesser” materials (Smith preferred silver and copper to platinum and gold), his exuberant, body-conscious jewelry captured the energy of Greenwich Village jazz clubs and the burgeoning civil rights movement (two passions of Smith’s, outside of jewelry). This is a traveling exhibition on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, so catch it out West while you can.
British Museum, London, UK. Runs through Jan. 5, 2015.
Porcelain is just the beginning of the story. The Ming dynasty (1400-1450) encapsulated 50 years of unprecedented craftsmanship that touched so much more than exquisite vases. This major exhibition of the British Museum features royal jewelry and other objects of courtly adornment, many of them newly discovered and never before seen outside of China – a treat for history buffs and finery aficionados alike!
Museum of Arts & Design, New York, NY. Runs through Jan. 18, 2015.
Most art museums treat jewelry as a side note – an occasional diversion from “more serious” mediums such as painting and sculpture. But New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is not most museums. It consistently curates spirited, thoughtful, and distinctly contemporary assemblages of wearable art. Case in point: Currently showing at MAD is Multiple Exposures, a ground-breaking exhibition that explores the relationship between photography and jewelry.
MAD has joined Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in being one of the only public American art institutions with its own Curator of Jewelry on staff, and it’s the sole museum in the U.S. to dedicate an entire gallery to both permanent and temporary jewelry exhibitions. So if you’re a jewelry enthusiast in the New York area, you’d be crazy not to pay a visit MAD.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Runs though Mar. 8, 2015.
Calling all vintage jewelry lovers! This star-studded exhibit brings glittery new meaning to Hollywood’s “golden age.” (And “silver screen,” for that matter.) Hollywood Glamour is an unprecedented exhibition of fashions and jewelry worn on- and off-screen by classic film’s leading ladies. Focusing largely on jewelry designed for celebrities in the ‘30s and ‘40s, these sumptuous pieces are beautifully presented in a sweeping “Hollywood soundstage” environment created within Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In addition to jewelry displays, museum-goers will also be treated to archival film clips of the pieces being worn in their heyday by the likes of Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
The National Museum of the American Indian, New York, NY, Nov. 12, 2014–Nov. 1, 2016.
Navajo jewelry predominates the Southwest, and it’s no wonder why. Everything about these pieces is eye-catching, from their substantial proportions, to their exceptional silverwork, to the artists’ lyrical use of colorful, sculptural stones.
But there’s an unseen element that’s just as significant: The techniques and symbolism on display have been passed down through generations of Navajo artists. One such lineage is the Yazzie family of Gallup, New Mexico. Renowned siblings Lee, Raymond and Mary Marrie Yazzie, along with other family members, are the subjects of NMAI’s Glittering World. More than 300 examples of their work tell the story of contemporary Navajo jewelry design and craftsmanship.
The museum also places the Yazzies’ jewelry within the cultural and historical contexts that are inextricably tied to this art form. For fans of Southwestern design, this is a can’t-miss exhibit!