Recently, participation in exhibitions of the world's leading museums has become a good form for large jewelry houses. This is the presentation of exhibits for expositions, and retrospective mono-exhibitions. Museum stories have already been replicated, built according to the principle "from the moment the house was created to the present day." Van Cleef & Arpels has gone further. First, last year, the Museum of Art and Science of Singapore opened the Art and Science of Gemstones exhibition, which examined jewelry in relation to gemology and mineralogy. It was carried out jointly with the French Museum of Natural History. Now Kyoto National Museum of Contemporary Art sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpelslaunches an even more interesting project - an exhibition, the theme of which is the connection between traditional Japanese crafts and French jewelry art.
Kyoto is the perfect place to talk about Japanese crafts as it is the country's cultural center. It was here that unique techniques for dyeing fabrics and embroidery were developed and passed on from generation to generation, here the traditions of creating traditional kimonos and costumes for classical Japanese theater, techniques of working with metal and ceramics are preserved. In Japan, traditional crafts such as gold embroidery or the maki-e gold lacquer technique are valued as highly as works of art, and the craftsmen who own them are often considered a “living national treasure” (and this is an official title). It was the craftsmen who became an important link between traditional Japanese crafts and the jewelry presented at the exhibition Van Cleef & Arpelsdifferent years - almost from the moment the house was founded in 1906 (the earliest work is the Varuna ship, around 1907) to the present, most of them are from the house's archival collection. The masters working for the French jewelry house, possessing such unique techniques as the proprietary "invisible setting", are called Mains d'Or (golden hands) in the company itself, and this is also something of an honorary title. The central part of the exhibition is devoted to the theme of craftsmanship and craftsmen, in which Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry is side by side with works of Japanese artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. "Golden Hands" Van Cleef & Arpels created incredible precious objects like "Birdcage" (1935, originally a frog cage, was created by order of the Indian maharaja), necklaces - working Zip zippers, dancer brooches, jewelry with the most complicated "invisible setting", golden hands of Japanese craftsmen - a box "Persimmon" in the technique of ivory carving (Ando Rokuzan, early XX century), a fine workmanship of an openwork ceramic vessel with famous Kyoto scenes (Hasegawa IV, late XIX-early XX century), a wall panel with a peacock and wisteria (unknown author, circa 1905), sewed a kimono "Flight of Snowflakes" using the traditional yuzen dyeing technique (Moriguchi Kunihiko, 2016).
Embroidered wall panel with peacock and wisteria, approx. 1905 year
There are three thematic sections in total. Another talks about the history and evolution of Van Cleef & Arpels' techniques and style, and another is a dedication to the present and the future. And this is an attempt by the curators to tell about the constant cultural exchange between France and Japan. In the opinion of the curators, this must be demonstrated by the works of contemporary Japanese artists, keepers of unique craft traditions, together with Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry. Among them are the already mentioned Moriguchi Kunihiko, who works in the technique of dyeing yuzen fabric, embroidery Kitamura Takeshi, who owns rare woodworking techniques Nakagawa Kiyotsugu, lacquer master Hattori Shunshс and ceramist Miwa Kyusetsu XII (Miwa Ryusaku).
“ Van Cleef & Arpels President Nicolas Bose approached me with the idea of a joint project four years ago. But I turned him down. I did not think that such a project could be done. We are a state museum, everything is organized for a long time and with a lot of coordination. I didn’t believe that such a project would be approved for me at all! It seemed almost impossible to bring so many jewelry, for example. But Nicolas turned to me again, then a third time - and then I decided to try it anyway. All Van Cleef & Arpels jeweleryI personally chose for the exhibition. First, I selected the works of Japanese masters from the collection of the museum, and then I found suitable jewelry for them. It was easy to choose Japanese works: I know our collection by heart, although it is constantly updated! So it was easy for me to match them with "pairs" from the collection of Van Cleef & Arpels. This exhibition is very unusual, despite the fact that there are now many joint Franco-Japanese projects. I selected items on two principles: excellence in technique and style intersections. After Kyoto, we plan to hold this exhibition in Tokyo."
Combines two universes and scenography by architect So Fujimoto (participated in the creation of the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2012, awarded the Golden Lion). “In order for the two parts of the exhibition to be in perfect harmony, I have developed a very simple and calm, but at the same time carefully thought out space design. For the first part of the exhibition dedicated to the history of Van Cleef & ArpelsI used cypress to create a very clean yet dynamic space. In the part where jewelry is adjacent to objects of traditional Japanese crafts, the space is formed by heavy transparent showcases, laconic, but at the same time diverse,”says Fujimoto. To what extent Fujimoto and the organizers of the exhibition succeeded in their plans, it will be possible to evaluate tomorrow. The only thing to do is to be in Kyoto at this time. ￼>