When Anne Dressen and Michèle Heuzé introduced their exhibition « Medusa, bijoux et tabous » at Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the different themes and political inuendos all seemed a little austere for contemporary jewelry but once inside the exhibition, I found some very funny items. Don’t go there with the idea of seeing precious stones or remarkables designs. Noodles, sweets and Swarowski crystal are more to the point. The underlying story is how jewelry affects our lives socially and whether it is an enemy to women?
Is jewelry too feminine to be art ? Does wearing jewelry forbid women to have power? Is it too precious to only belong to a social elite. How can men wear jewelry ? Can jewelry exist without a body to wear it ? Are sweets and noodle jewelry ? Can custom jewellery be art ? All these themes seem very far fetched and too intellectual for me to enjoy good design and pleasant brooches or rings.
So I tried to navigate around the black heavy cases hiding (rather than showing) the precious pieces of the exhibition and I concentrated on things I had never seen before. Like body piercings for the leg and Michael Jackson’s crystal Glove by Bill Whitten.
I loved the film of “How to make a snow brooch” by Sharon Fitness which disappears of course when the snow melts and the “Ice under-arm” by Naomi Filmer. The Body necklace and profile ornament for Emmy van Leersum were intriguing. As is « The cheater’s ring », with a mirror to reflect playing cards, an 18 th century English invention.
The usual Indian Maharajah’s photographs showing them covered in precious stones are hanging next to a rare 19 th century « Portrait of Prince Romuald Vladislav Konstantinovitch Gledroïtze » showing him wearing myriads of military medals and usually kept at Musée de la Légion d’Honneur.
And of course, powerful Madeleine Albright smiling with her Peace dove brooch is very strong.
All in all, the show of 400 pieces, is interesting if you don’t go there looking for artistic beauty or expensive stones. The title “Medusa” refers to this very pretty and treacherous transparent fish that stings you in the sea. It is strange, full of discoveries, sociologically interesting but not so pleasant nor especially contemporary.
The catalog of “Medusa” is published by Paris Musées thanks to Ecole des Arts Joaillers, Van Cleef & Arpels. (Until November 5, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris)
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