It's jewelry's time at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.
Since opening nine years ago, the uptown facility has had major shows on ceramics, turned wood, glass and fiber. Now comes jewelry in the biggest show ever at the museum, opening Saturday, one with a suitably long title: “Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection.”
Curated by Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibit boasts 300 objects – 275 pieces of jewelry by an international array of artists and drawings, watercolors and sculptural constructions related to the work.
Drutt, who collected the work over decades, is a legendary scholar, educator and gallery owner in Philadelphia who pioneered in both jewelry and crafts. The work not only stands on its own but relates to what was going on in the fine arts when it was made.
“When Helen first got into collecting in the 1960s, she was looking at a brooch piece that reminded her of a (Richard) Diebenkorn painting,” said Mint assistant curator Allie Farlowe.
On view will be necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings and rings from 15 countries. According to a Mint statement, Claus Bury's “Ring” is a revolutionary work that blends precious metal and alternative materials.
A necklace by Bernhard Schobinger combines crystal beads with shards of Coca-Cola bottles found in a politically charged section of Berlin.
“More than anything, the show will just expand people's definition of what jewelry can be,” said Farlowe. “It's not just diamonds and pearls and precious stones. It can be plastic and paper, all sort of materials.”
The Mint will put jewelry from its own international collection on view with the Drutt collection. In 2006, the Founders' Circle, a crafts museum support group, raised $40,000 that helped double the size of the jewelry collection, one the Mint wants to grow.
Some of the “Ornament as Art” work is sculptural, made for the eye. Some of it is wearable, suitable for an evening out.
Farlowe said such a distinction would not deter her.
“I don't know if the average person would put them on and wear them out, but I would,” she said.