“Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s” is headed to the Cincinnati Art Museum this fall.
Chopard (Swiss, est. 1860), Alexandra Watch, circa 1971, gold, diamonds, lapis lazuli, Courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Collection of Kimberly Klosterman, Photography by Tony Walsh Cincinnati—An important jewelry collection with Midwestern roots has traveled around the world before finally making its hometown debut.
Coming to the Cincinnati Art Museum this fall, “Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s” explores the radical period in jewelry design that accompanied major shifts in society, marked by the civil rights movement, women’s movement, the space race, rock ‘n’ roll, hippie culture and the birth control pill.
Just as young people were breaking with the expectations laid by generations before them, a number of jewelry designers leaned into the freedom of their own unencumbered self-expression.
Values like non-conformity and individuality appear in these designers’ work.
The 120 pieces in the “Simply Brilliant” exhibition feature works from designers like Andrew Grima, Gilbert Albert, Arthur King, Jean Vendome, Barbara Anton, Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co., Bulgari and Cartier.
Every piece is from the collection of Cincinnati jewelry lover Kimberly Klosterman, and curated by the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Chief Curator and Curator of Fashion Arts and Textiles Cynthia Amnéus.
Amnéus remarked, “The jewelry in this exhibition is remarkable and examines a period in body adornment that is rarely explored or understood. You think about the rather prim jewelry of the 1950s, then suddenly these artist-jewelers are creating pieces that were big and bold.
“The work was overwhelmingly large, primarily gold and incorporated some very unusual materials. It was a new day. The times were changing and art, fashion, jewelry, all responded.”
Per the museum, the designers featured in Klosterman’s impressive personal collection considered themselves artists first and jewelry designers second. Their interest was in breaking away with fine jewelry norms, attracting a customer who appreciated standing out and being different from her counterparts.
Though every piece showcases its creator’s unique point-of-view, common visual themes are the use of yellow gold and large, abstracted shapes reminiscent of the Space Age.
Many designers experimented with unusual materials, incorporating coral, shells, geodes, and even elephant hair. Less expensive gemstones like lapis lazuli, tiger’s eye and moldavite feature more prominently than traditional diamonds, for example.
The exhibition’s accompanying catalogue, edited by Amnéus, puts the work into context, featuring designer or jewelry house biographies, essays from a number of scholars, full color images and details on certain pieces.
“Simply Brilliant” debuted last year in Antwerp, Belgium at the DIVA Museum for Diamonds, Jewellery and Silver, then traveled to Pforzheim, Germany’s Pforzheim Jewellery Museum.
It will finally make its hometown appearance at the Cincinnati Art Museum from Oct. 22 through Feb. 6.
The exhibition will be presented for free and will kick off with a member preview on Thursday, Oct. 21, featuring a lecture from Italian jewelry scholar Amanda Triossi.