Sotheby’s Launches First Selling Exhibition of Black Fine Jewelry Designers: The auction house will showcase 60 pieces by Black designers across the United States and Europe.
Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance at Sotheby’s New York shines a light on a severely underexposed area of the jewelry world. The selling exhibition showcases approximately 60 pieces from 21 Black jewelry designers across the United States and Europe. Curated by journalist and author Melanie Grant in partnership with Frank Everett, Sotheby’s director of fine jewelry, the long-awaited event opens today.
“I honestly couldn’t believe that it hadn’t been done before,” says Everett. “When Melanie proposed this idea it was an immediate ‘absolutely.’”The selling exhibition is a unique opportunity for contemporary designers, as the auction house usually deals in signed vintage pieces. Clientele will have a chance to purchase the pieces and learn about the artists at the same time.
“There just seemed to be this disconnect between the auction world and the design world for Black designers,” says Grant. “I thought maybe there’s a bridge there between the two, an exhibition…which wasn’t strictly about selling and commerce, it was about the arts and a way to amplify it on a much bigger stage for collectors who don’t really know the designers.”
The exhibition will be as much about discovery for clients as it is for the jewelers participating. British fine jeweler Thelma West—whose five-carat pear-shaped diamond Rihanna wore to the Met Gala—was frank about how the past year has changed the community itself: “Two years ago, if you had asked me to put together a list of the top 10 Black professionals creating fine jewellery, I would have come up short,” says West.
“The fact that our stories were not told and amplified meant that, not only did we not see each other, but it clearly made it impossible for others (media, industry leaders, etc.) to see us or consider our work worthy. We were all stuck in this circular limbo…That has changed in the last year. I’ve exchanged messages with so many Black jewelers expressing how surprised and happy we are to discover each other.”
When working on her list of jewelers to include in the exhibition, Grant started with Art Smith, “As one of the founders for contemporary design, he was pivotal, I think,” she says. “The thing tying it together is that everyone…has a power to their design, and when you see it you remember it. You can’t confuse it with someone else’s work.”
Over half of the jewelers featured have created new works to be shown, and worked in a larger format than ever before. “Melanie Grant and Sotheby’s gave me the creative freedom to do what I thought would be right for this moment,” says Lauren Godfrey, designer of Harwell Godfrey jewelry. “All three of the pieces I am showing feature big, colorful statement gems—it’s an aspect of my work that I felt was important to share with Sotheby’s audience of collectors.”
“We’re in this beautiful moment, really,” says Grant. “I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime. Jewelry is a manifestation of something, so what better way of remembering this moment than through jewelry.” The exhibition is on view at Sotheby’s New York and online until September 26th.
Original article: https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/09/sothebys-brilliant-and-black
Written by Daisy Shaw-Ellis on 17th September 2021.