© Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. MNAC. Foto: Calveras / Mèrida/ Sagristà
Otho Lloyd: Anys trenta / Años trenta
I’ve heard that there’s an old Frenchman whose arm is worth €1 million. Legend has it that one day over drinks at a bar, Pablo Picasso gave him a tattoo. Assuming this pretty neat story is true, this lucky man was a living art gallery with a Picasso constantly at the ready. And on a more intimate level, the tattoo was his permanent accessory—a lovely adornment, a conversation piece, something the man could privately cherish. The obvious irony is that this permanent piece was inherently temporary, its life cycle capped by that of a man.
Picasso eventually designed more adornments, albeit less permanent and less temporary. In the late Fifties and Sixties, he collaborated with jewellery designer Francois Hugo on a limited edition line of commercial jewellery. Some of these creations will be on display later this month at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in their exhibition 'Joie d’artista: Del modernisme a les primeres avantguardes.' Not limited to Picasso, the exhibition features a long list of artists from the 20th century; heavy hitters famous for creations destined for the gallery rather than the wrist or the earlobe.
Although Joie d’artista focuses primarily on the joie, the curators have included a few paintings, sculptures, photos, textiles and objects to add context to the jewels—perhaps to indicate how George Braque mimicked a painted line in gems or how a Hans Arp sculpture quite easily rests on a neck when miniaturised and goldplated.
In fact, considering the style and content of these artists, a move to jewellery making is no big stretch. Among the included artists, several were famous for sculpture (Auguste Rodin, Pau Gargallo, Alberto Giacometti, Alexander Calder), a medium not too far a cry from jewellery. The listed painters, aside from Picasso and Salvador Dalí, unify with big bright geometric shapes, landscapes or portraits heavy on the bold, light on the fine detail. Which is to say, I expect the jewels of Max Ernst, Ferdinand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico to look like pretty, smaller versions of a fairly concrete style. I do expect Dalí’s jewellery to surprise. Perhaps the least pin-down-able of the Joie d’artista artists, he’s also the most likely to turn the ugly into the beautiful.