Set In Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels — an exhibit from February 18–June 5, 2011 at Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum. 2 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128.
Since its opening on the Place Vendôme in Paris in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has played a leading role in style and design innovation. Its timeless pieces have been worn by style icons including the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. This Cooper-Hewitt exhibition explores the historical significance of the firm’s contributions to jewelry design in the 20th century, including the establishment of Van Cleef & Arpels in New York with the advent of World War II. On view is more than 350 works including jewels, timepieces, fashion accessories and objets d’art by Van Cleef & Arpels, many of which were created exclusively for the American market. The exhibition examines the work through the lenses of innovation, transformation, nature as inspiration, exoticism, fashion and personalities, and includes design drawings from the Van Cleef & Arpels archives.
Join Patrick Jouin, installation designer for Set In Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, for a tour of this stunning exhibition from a behind the scenes perspective:
Van Cleef & Arpels has been an important force in high jewelry for more than one hundred years. The preeminence of design in the firm’s philosophy provides a unique opportunity to study the evolution of twentieth-century jewelry in the context of the decorative arts and other design disciplines.
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels examines VC&A’s innovative use of materials, production methods, and interpretations of trends over a century of creativity.
Van Cleef & Arpels was founded in Paris in 1896 by brothers-in-law Alfred van Cleef and Salomon Arpels with the latter’s wife, Estelle van Cleef Arpels. Both families had long been in the diamond and colored-stone markets in the Netherlands and Belgium. Almost immediately after the new company moved into the place Vendôme in 1906, an international clientele flocked through its doors, drawn by VC&A’s creative design, avant-garde forms, and high-quality stones and settings. The recipe for making an exquisite piece of jewelry is akin to haute cuisine: masters employ special techniques to mix and adorn top-quality ingredients, creating something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. This approach permeates the essence of Van Cleef & Arpels’ jewelry.
Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels, the most comprehensive exhibition ever organized of Van Cleef & Arpels’ masterworks, is divided into six themes which resonate through the history of the firm: Innovation, both stylistic and technical; Transformations; Nature as Inspiration; Exoticism; Fashion; and Personalities. This unprecedented assembly of 350 pieces from VC&A’s collection and international private collections, augmented by never-before-seen drawings from VC&A’s design archives and by related objects from Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s permanent collection, illustrates the firm’s celebrated history and places its contributions to design in a broader context.