Sparkle and solitude: Those are the two primary ingredients of the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition that opened Nov. 3 at Cedar Lake, an event and performance space in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. The Paris-based jeweler tapped minimalist director and set designer Robert Wilson to conceptualize an installation for the world debut of this latest high jewelry collection. Upon first glance, Wilson’s spare, graphic style seems tailor-made for conjuring drama—black-box vitrines sparkle amid video walls that defy the senses—yet it never detracts from the artistry of intricately handcrafted jewels.
For this new collection, Van Cleef & Arpels looked to a story in which water plays an integral role, Noah’s Ark. Along with floral and ballet themes, animals and insects historically have been part of the DNA at Van Cleef & Arpels, and this exhibit showcases that tradition with everything from butterflies to birds to zebras rendered in styles that combine artfully set gems with a sense of whimsy.
The L’Arche de Noé collection comprises 41 brooches—and only brooches. “Once the theme was determined, it made sense to work with one single scale,” says Nicolas Bos, CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “We thought about integrating, say, a bracelet or a necklace into the theme, but in doing so, you lose the unity of the motif. These are little sculptures, and a brooch is a perfect vehicle for this.”
Like Noah’s animals, each idea is presented as a pair, though the interpretations are also highly dependent on the inherent personalities of each species. A pair of butterflies—crafted of lapis lazuli, turquoise and malachite, splashed with diamonds, emeralds and sapphires—flit along separately, while a pair of penguins in onyx and diamonds unite in one brooch, the head of one tucked affectionately under the other, with a stone of lapis lazuli resembling an egg between them. “We wanted a very positive, playful vision of nature,” Bos says of the wildlife depictions, many of which take their cue from late 19th century German toys as well as a 1613 painting, The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, by Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Elder.
As the designs evolved, it also quickly became apparent that this would be an ideal collection for public viewing. “We are always thinking about how to present a collection in a way that tells its story while also highlighting the work of the artisans,” Bos says. The exhibit also features special programming such as conversations with art historians and jewelry collectors to provide deeper context. “The motifs and the unity of this collection, together with the beauty of the craftsmanship, made it a perfect opportunity to create an exhibition not just for clients, collectors and editors, but the general public as well.”
Here’s a look at some of the pieces in the collection.
“Pingouins” clip featuring diamonds, tourmalines, onyx, turquoise and lapis lazuli set in 18-karat white and yellow gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Libellules” clips featuring diamonds, multicolored sapphires, spessartite garnets, spinels and tourmaline set in 18-karat white and rose gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Ours Blancs” clip from “L’Arche de Noé” collection featuring diamonds, sapphires, pearls and white mother-of-pearl set in 18K white gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Morpho” clips featuring diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, lapis lazuli, turquoise and malachite set in 18-karat white gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Zèbres” clip featuring multicolored diamonds, lapis lazuli and onyx set in 18-karat white gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Martin-Pêcheurs” clip featuring diamonds, multicolored sapphires, turquoise and black spinels set in 18-karat white and yellow gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Oies” clips featuring diamonds, spessartite garnets, rubellites and spinels set in 18-karat white and rose gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“Fennecs” clips featuring diamonds, multicolored sapphires, garnets, spinels and pearls set in 18-karat yellow and rose gold by Van Cleef & Arpels. (Price upon request) 877.826.2533, vancleefarpels.com
“L’Arche de Noé” by Van Cleef & Arpels is open to the public for viewing through Nov. 19 at Cedar Lake, 547 W. 26th St., New York. For more information or to book tickets, visit arkvca.com.