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New art jewellery exhibition at Museum of Arts and Design in New York

While many pieces of jewellery are described as works of art because of the craftsmanship involved, some are literal works of art, like those on show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York (MAD). Until 2 June you can view a 130-strong collection of exceptional art jewellery, acquired by MAD over the past five years, as part of its new exhibition, Wear It or Not. Add to this the vast archive of jewellery in MAD's permanent collection and you have one very good reason to head to Manhattan.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, it is difficult to know whether these pieces have been designed to be worn or displayed as you would a sculpture. Blurring the line between jewellery and art, it's a fascinating mix of conceptual jewellery by avant-garde jewellers of the past, artists and the most imaginative artist jewellers at work today.
Some pieces, such as Heather White van Stolk's Ring Swallowing a Pearl, are beautifully realised and wearable jewels. Turning the classic idea of a ring on its head, a tiny pearl nestles in a concave gold surround. A twisted necklace by Jocelyn Kolb, made up of a concertina of nylon folds, incorporates hidden LED lights. And Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright's horn bracelet is part jewellery, part musical instrument. One of a series of functioning pieces of audio jewellery, put it to you lips, blow and out comes a convincing trumpet sound.
Other exhibits sit more comfortably in the realm of art, like jeweller Kiff Slemmons' The Pointilist. One part knuckle duster, four parts sharpened pencil, it could double as a lethal weapon. When Kim Buck's beautiful series of silver and gold brooches are placed together, they show the perfect imprint of a string of pearls. And William Harper's self-portrait in jewels is a wonder to behold. A wooden cask, pierced with nails of all shapes and sizes and containing an eclectic assortment of treasures, you could pore over it for hours.

Wear It or Not runs until 2 June 2013 at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC.

  • Ring Swallowing a Pearl, 2002. Heather White van Stolk; 18ct gold and pearl. Gift to MAD by Mobilia Gallery, in honour of Vincenta Mary Seifert, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.
  • A Wait, 2007. Jung-Gyu Yi; Silver, jasper and onyx. Gift to MAD by Nanette L. Laitman, 2011. Photo credit: Myung-uk Heo.

10 more pictures...

Ring Swallowing a Pearl, 2002. Heather White van Stolk; 18ct gold and pearl. Gift to MAD by Mobilia Gallery, in honour of Vincenta Mary Seifert, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Ring Swallowing a Pearl, 2002. Heather White van Stolk; 18ct gold and pearl. Gift to MAD by Mobilia Gallery, in honour of Vincenta Mary Seifert, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

A Wait, 2007. Jung-Gyu Yi; Silver, jasper and onyx. Gift to MAD by Nanette L. Laitman, 2011. Photo credit: Myung-uk Heo.

A Wait, 2007. Jung-Gyu Yi; Silver, jasper and onyx. Gift to MAD by Nanette L. Laitman, 2011. Photo credit: Myung-uk Heo.

Bracelet, 2000. Peter Chang; acrylic and resin. Gift to MAD by Mimi Livingston, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Bracelet, 2000. Peter Chang; acrylic and resin. Gift to MAD by Mimi Livingston, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Police State Badge, 1969. William Clark; sterling silver, 14ct gold. Gift to MAD by Diane Kuhn, 2012. Photo credit: Velvet da Vinci Gallery.

Police State Badge, 1969. William Clark; sterling silver, 14ct gold. Gift to MAD by Diane Kuhn, 2012. Photo credit: Velvet da Vinci Gallery.

Untitled (ring), 1981. Joyce Clements; 14ct gold, quartz vial, 24ct gold dust. Gift to MAD by Charles Stewart, 2009. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Untitled (ring), 1981. Joyce Clements; 14ct gold, quartz vial, 24ct gold dust. Gift to MAD by Charles Stewart, 2009. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Pentimenti #3: The Harem, 1987. William Harper; gold cloisonne enamel, 14ct gold, 24ct gold, sterling silver, opal, tourmaline, garnet, peridot, amethyst, jade and pearl. Gift to MAD by Nanette L. Laitman, 2009. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Pentimenti #3: The Harem, 1987. William Harper; gold cloisonne enamel, 14ct gold, 24ct gold, sterling silver, opal, tourmaline, garnet, peridot, amethyst, jade and pearl. Gift to MAD by Nanette L. Laitman, 2009. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

First Self Portrait of the Artist as a Bochio, 1998. William Harper; the jewellery: gold cloisonne enamel on fine silver with 18 and 24ct gold; sterling silver, Mabe pearl; the cask: wood box covered with lead, snakeskin and found objects, with plexiglas insert. Gift to MAD by Mimi Livingston, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

First Self Portrait of the Artist as a Bochio, 1998. William Harper; the jewellery: gold cloisonne enamel on fine silver with 18 and 24ct gold; sterling silver, Mabe pearl; the cask: wood box covered with lead, snakeskin and found objects, with plexiglas insert. Gift to MAD by Mimi Livingston, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

InfloriIlumini, 2009. Jocelyn Kolb; Nylon, glass, LED and lithium batteries. Gift to MAD by Raymond Remar, 2010. Photo credit: Jocelyn Kolb.

InfloriIlumini, 2009. Jocelyn Kolb; Nylon, glass, LED and lithium batteries. Gift to MAD by Raymond Remar, 2010. Photo credit: Jocelyn Kolb.

Horn Bracelet, 2010. Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright; Porcelain and gold lustre. MAD museum purchase, with funds provided by the Collections Committee, 2011. Photo credit: Louise te Poele.

Horn Bracelet, 2010. Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright; Porcelain and gold lustre. MAD museum purchase, with funds provided by the Collections Committee, 2011. Photo credit: Louise te Poele.

Panflute Collar, 2010. Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright; Porcelain and chain. MAD museum purchase with funds provided by the Collections Committee, 2011. Photo credit: Louise te Poele.

Panflute Collar, 2010. Arjen Noordeman and Christie Wright; Porcelain and chain. MAD museum purchase with funds provided by the Collections Committee, 2011. Photo credit: Louise te Poele.

Cactus Berry Bracelet, 2010. Pat Pruitt; 316L stainless steel and natural coral; CNC machined, welded, polished, diamond scratch finishes, coral beads; tension set. MAD museum purchase with funds provided by Ann Kaplan, 2010. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

Cactus Berry Bracelet, 2010. Pat Pruitt; 316L stainless steel and natural coral; CNC machined, welded, polished, diamond scratch finishes, coral beads; tension set. MAD museum purchase with funds provided by Ann Kaplan, 2010. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

The Pointilist, 1999. Kiff Slemmons; Silver, pencils. Gift to MAD by Virginia Holshuh, 2008.
Photo credit: Matthew Cox.

The Pointilist, 1999. Kiff Slemmons; Silver, pencils. Gift to MAD by Virginia Holshuh, 2008. Photo credit: Matthew Cox.