Artist-designed jewelry is by no means a new fad. Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali all designed wearable works of art in their day. But now a new show at New York’s Hauser & Wirth gallery is passing on the tradition to the next generation of artists, whose creations only truly come to life when worn. The Portable Art Project, organized by Celia Forner, began in 2008 with a commissioned set of gold and silver cuffs designed artist Louise Bourgeois. Now, a total of 15 artists have joined the initiative, designing original pieces of unique jewelry and small editioned series, which will be shown for the first time to the public on April 20.
Of course, Bourgeois’ 2008 cuffs will be on view. The pieces wrap nearly the entire forearm in brushed swirls of yellow and rose gold and rhodium-plated silver. Bourgeois’ desire to marry flesh and metal is echoed in Bharti Kher’s Warrior Bracelet, a golden glove shaped like a lions head. In a release for the show, the artist describes the piece as “a skin the shaman carries.” Where Bourgeois’ golden hoops only envelope the arm, Kher’s bracelet transforms the entire appendage, and possibly the wearer, during use. “Wear it to work and keep it in your bedroom for when you need to call into being your warrior,” says the artist.
John Baldessari, who is known for his colorful appropriations of found photographs, has also designed a set of gold and silver arm cuffs. His Crowd Arm builds on Kher’s body-as-weapon theme, going one step further, with the cuffs covering just the elbow with protruding golden spikes.
Sentimentality is a fundamental part of what makes all jewelry timeless. In Caro Niederer’s charm bracelet, the artist has attached delicately framed painted portraits of moments from her own life. Meanwhile, Subodh Gupta’s necklaces appear to overflow with diamonds and emeralds in the same way a food jar from a home kitchen might spill its contents.
Phyllida Barlow, who will represent Britain at the 2017 Venice Biennale, has garnered international attention for her large-scale structures made from common materials such as wood and plaster. For the Portable Art Project, Barlow has shrunk her larger-than-life creations down considerably, just small enough that they might be attached as a brooch. And Matthew Day Jackson’s memento mori-themed skeletal sculptures are art first, and wearable object second, fashioned with detachable wearable rings.
Works in the Portable Art Project are priced between $15,000 to $120,000, and also feature pieces by Stefan Brüggemann, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Christina Iglesias, Nate Lowman, Paul McCarthy, Michele Oka Doner and Pipilotti Rist.