Louisa Guinness to Celebrate the Jeweler as Artist


Ever since she set up her eponymous gallery in 2003, Louisa Guinness has been championing artists as jewelers, offering wearable works of art. Having started her business specializing in jewels by some of the greatest artistic names of the 20th century, like Picasso, Alexander Calder, Lucio Fontana, and Niki de Saint-Phalle, she further expanded by starting collaborations with contemporary artists, like Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, and more recently, Yinka Shonibare and Mariko Mori.

Now she is going one step further, having decided to dedicate a corner of her elegant Conduit Street boutique to the work of jewelers she feels have been overlooked by collectors, with a particular emphasis on those working in the 1960s and 1970s.

“It is the first time I have widened our strict focus on jewelery made by artists (sculptors and painters). Not least because I truly feel that many of the makers in this show are or were artists in the truest sense and should be appreciated as such,” explains Louisa Guinness.

“I wanted to bring them back to the forefront of the artworld's consciousness. Many of them were highly competent draftsmen and incredibly innovative designers - they were much more than 'craftsman,'” she told Blouin Lifestyle.

The debut exhibition, "The Jeweler as Artist: 1960‑1980," opening on May 20, will present unique pieces by Andrew Grima, Geoffrey Turk, John Donald, David Thomas, Alan Gard, Leo de Vroomen, and Kutchinsky.

“They completely revolutionised jewelery and did for jewelery what Braque or Picasso did for Modernism,” Guinness explains, adding “It was really the first time that non-precious stones were used in jewelery in this way. They were inspired by nature; they would choose a single beautiful stone, often uncut — quarts, agate, citrine or opal were used — and then create a setting that echoed and complimented its beauty. They were wonderfully innovative with the settings which became as important as the stones.”

They also herald the beginning of the celebrity jeweler, with the focus moving on them, rather than an anonymous craftsman working for a large workshop.

Andrew Grima was perhaps the most important and glamorous of them. “In his early years he would drive round Europe in his Aston Martin selling jewelery,” says Guinness, and when he opene a boutique on Jermyn Street in 1969 he roped in two artists to help it designed it (Bryan Keale and Geoffrey Clarke). Today, there are over 100 of his jewels in the royal collection.

Though primarily focusing on signed post-war pieces by British jewelers, Guinness plans to include in her new gallery corner fine unsigned jewelry of the period, as well as rare costume jewelry by the likes of Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Chanel, and Givenchy.

The gallery will, of course, continue to offer jewels made by artists and is planning solo exhibitions dedicated to Alexander Calder and Niki de Saint Phalle later this year.

Interest in such jewels has been rising. In 2013, a collection of jewelry by Alexander Calder, sold by Philadelphia's Makler Gallery performed remarkably well, with a pair of brass mobile-like earrings selling for $1.1 million, against an estimate of $60,000‑80,000 and a silver necklace selling for just under $2 million, against an estimate of $400,000-600,000.

"The Jeweler As Artist; 1960 - 1980" will run May 20-July 18.


as first published on BlouinArtinfo.com