Art and jewelry aficionados Melanie Grant and Elisabetta Cipriani are holding their first-ever selling exhibition, in collaboration with The Serpentine gallery. It will be held at The Elisabetta Cipriani gallery in London, from November 18-27, with the public being able to make appointments from 22-27 November to view and purchase jewelry. In this interview, Melanie and Elisabetta tell us about the gallery, how the collaboration between the two of them came about, and their mission to break barriers between art and jewelry.
You’ve invited 17 renowned contemporary artists to showcase their wearable sculptures. Is there a common thread between each of the artists? How did you choose whose work to feature?
Melanie: The underlying theme of the show is Naturalism and how our connection to nature has shifted in the solitude experienced by everyone as a result of Covid. I’m interested in how that will manifest in our relationship with jewelry specifically.
I invited this diverse selection of artists to come together to celebrate freedom. Freedom from the hierarchy that still remains — placing decorative art below fine art, freedom from the boundaries that often separate established artists and emerging talent, and freedom from self-doubt. I produced my first-ever jewel with the gallery, and I had to ask myself, did I have the right to create a piece of wearable sculpture? There are so many things holding us back as creatives that to be free, we have to question them all.
I choose the artists themselves for their avant-garde rebellion because each rebels against the system in their own way. Fabio Salini uses the industrial material carbon fiber instead of gold to illustrate his idea of preciousness. Bibi Van der Veldon has ants crawling all over her tulip choker, and Liv Luttrell has black oxidised spikes for earrings which aren’t pretty at all and go against the very notion of perceived beauty. The idea is to challenge what we think of as worthy in terms of art and what we think of as beautiful in terms of jewellery.
There are going to be a lot of firsts in this exhibition. What are you most excited about?
Melanie: The mix of fine and jewellery artists is very exciting for me as well as the fact The Serpentine are inviting their patrons. Also, that Wallace Chan, who makes between 16-20 pieces a year, is giving us two jewels. And of course that I’m collaborating with the gallery to make my first piece.
Elisabetta: There are many firsts in the exhibition, but I am very excited to present Melanie’s first-ever designed jewel, which is entitled Self. The piece was made in collaboration with my gallery in a limited edition of eight. What I love most about this piece is that it is a mix between medieval and contemporary art, a weapon and a talismanic object, a piece that one would never imagine is made by a non-jewellery designer. To me, Melanie is a visionary.
Melanie — You are very inspired by nature. What about it inspires you as a writer and curator? Where else do you find inspiration?
Melanie: I love the vastness and wildness of nature. I was recently in the Caribbean and almost drowned in the sea. A hurricane was moving past the island I was on, and the sea was deceptively calm, but the rip tides beneath were ferocious. I have to say, my life flashed before my eyes as I got pulled out from the shore, and it occurred to me at that moment how insignificant we all are. How brief our time is to offer some small contribution to the human experience. Nature does that to you. It humbles you with its power, and sometimes in a city like London, I forget that.
For me, jewelry acts as a vessel for human emotion, love, and profound moments. When connecting to something bigger than myself, I want to share whatever knowledge and ideas I have with others in various forms, like writing and curation.
I’m also inspired by art movements, like Modernism that often begins on the cusp of events such as pandemics and war. Coming together in a type of collective creativity, as we have done for Force of Nature, is very rewarding. I suspect that the next art movement on the horizon will be a joyous celebration of life as we move on from everything we’ve gone through over the last couple of years. Whatever comes next, nature will be part of its story, I’m sure, and even though we have work to do on things like climate change, it’s nice just to pay homage to it as a concept.
Elisabetta — You have been immersed in the art world for a very long time and continue to redefine the boundaries between fine art and jewelry. What has been a pivotal moment for you throughout your career?
Elisabetta: I am constantly looking for creativity and innovation. It is a true challenge to convince an established visual artist to create a small sculpture to wear. But, the pivotal moment of my career is when my clients change their perception of accepting jewelry as art. It sparks within them a true passion to carry a sculpture everywhere they go.
How did the collaboration between the two of you come about?
Elisabetta: I met Melanie three years ago at a talk at 5 Hertford Street Club on the subject of jewelry as art. Since then, we have never stopped seeing each other. When her book launched a year ago, I suggested she do an exhibition, perhaps selecting a chapter from her book and inviting those artists to do a piece for the occasion. Then Melanie confessed her secret dream, to design a jewel and our relationship became stronger.
Melanie: I was doing a talk on the relationship between jewelry and art for PAD a few years ago. In the audience was this rambunctious woman with wild auburn hair and fantastic Italian hand gestures. She was highly opinionated and smart, and we became friends. I went to her gallery to interview her for my book, Coveted, and stayed for hours trying on literally all the jewelry she had. She was incredibly patient, and eventually, we decided to create an exhibition together to celebrate and elevate jewelry as an art form, and here we are. I admire her willingness to consider jewelry on its individual merits and not lump it together as a homogenous thing. She has impeccable taste and a flamboyance that is thoroughly Italian!
What does the name Force of Nature mean to you?
Melanie: It’s a double entendre. On the one hand, it refers to the power of nature and how we wear that power. It is easy to forget that the jewelry itself — the stones and metals — come from the earth before they are reconfigured artistically. On the other, it is about the people involved with the exhibition, most of which are exceptional characters and forces to be reckoned with.
Elisabetta: Inspiration always comes from nature, we as well. We are surrounded by nature, and with the pandemic, many of us experienced a stronger connection to it. To me, Force of Nature could be an erupted volcano, but it is not a visual experience but rather an internal feeling of strong emotions. It is also a celebration of life.
This article appeared on 18th November 2021.
Written by Kristen Shirley.