Van Cleef & Arpels Stuns Once Again With An Exhibition Of Archival Jewels In Seoul

Amidst the bustling streets of Seoul—the new epicentre for all things pop culture—the D Museum played host to an exquisite exposition, Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love, a tantalising journey into the universe of the renowned high jewellery maison. In the exhibition, running until April 2024, patrons are transported through more than a century of opulent creativity, witnessing the convergence of more than 300 jewellery masterpieces, watches and precious artefacts, complemented by more than 90 original archival pieces meticulously gathered for this prestigious occasion. Curated with discerning finesse by the erudite Alba Cappellieri, Director of the International Master in Jewellery & Fashion Accessories at Politecnico di Milano and a luminary in the realm of jewellery scholarship, the exhibition is a seamless fusion of history, artistry and emotion.

Alba Cappellieri, curator of the Time, Nature, Love exhibition (left), and The Zip necklace, one of the most avant garde creations in the history of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, shared his excitement in having Cappellieri on board. “I met Alba at the Creative Academy—Richemont Group’s school of design—in Milan a few years ago. She was teaching there and I found her speech very interesting. When the opportunity for an exhibition at the Palazzo Reale in Milan arose, we chose to offer her the curatorship. We wanted her to present her perspective on the maison through a groundbreaking project rooted in writer Italo Calvino’s work,” Bos says. “The Time, Nature, Love exhibition was first presented in Milan in 2019 and 2020. In 2022, it was held at the Power Station of Art, Shanghai’s museum of contemporary art, and in Saudi Arabia at the Saudi National Museum from January to April in 2023. Today we are proud to see it travelling to D Museum in Seoul, where the maison is no stranger to the cultural scene.”

President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, Nicolas Bos.

In selecting the philosophies of Italo Calvino as inspiration, Cappellieri explains why the work of the Italian journalist made so much sense to her. “Italo Calvino was the first Italian to be invited by Harvard University in 1984 to deliver the prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Poetry Lectures, a cycle of six conferences that he decided to dedicate to values to be preserved in the next millennium,” she says. These values were Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility and Multiplicity. The sixth lecture, focusing on the value of Consistency, was to have been written directly at Harvard, but unfortunately, Calvino passed away on 19 September 1985, before leaving Italy.

The Collaret created in 1939 is from the former collection of Her Majesty Queen Nazli of Egypt. It is crafted in platinum and set with 673 diamonds for 204,03 carats (left), and the Butterfly Clip that was created in 1982; it’s remarkable for its openwork structure allowing light to pass through.

“These ‘values or qualities or specificities’, as he himself defined them, represent absolute virtues for both literature and jewellery, as well as for any other object, and support the analysis and the understanding of our time beyond any specific discipline,” Cappellieri adds. “Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility and Multiplicity are effective in decoding the relationship between Van Cleef & Arpels and time—a jagged, broken and complex period like the 20th century.”

Triumphant Trinity

This 1938 Wild Rose Minaudière contains many nifty compartments highlighted by Mystery Set rubies, a lipstick case, a notebook, a lighter and a comb.

Divided into three thematic sections—Time, Nature and Love—each segment delved deep into the intricate relationship between the maison’s creations and these fundamental concepts. The inaugural section, Time, served as a poignant ode to the ephemeral dance of existence, drawing inspiration from the profound insights of Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Cappellieri expertly delineated the maison’s temporal journey through 10 meticulously curated sections, evoking the essence of Parisian elegance, the allure of distant lands, and ethereal qualities. Nature, the second thematic enclave, unfolded as a verdant tapestry of flora and fauna, where Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations breathed life into gemstone-studded blooms and intricate animal motifs, capturing the essence of the natural world in exquisite detail.

The Izmir necklace has a 50.79-carat yellow sapphire, as well as amethysts, garnets, citrines, pink tourmalines and coloured spinels (left). One of Van Cleef & Arpels’ most exquisite special orders is this majestic flying bird, carrying a 96.62-carat briolette-cut yellow diamond.

However, it was within the Love-themed chamber that the exhibition reached its crescendo, unveiling a treasure trove of romantic symbolism and timeless elegance. Conceived by the visionary designer-artist Johanna Grawunder, the immersive scenography bathed in neon hues evoked a sense of poetic enchantment, complemented by a monumental transparent sculpture that served as the pièce de résistance of the Love room. Collaborating in tandem with Grawunder, Michał Batory, a graphic virtuoso, lent his expertise to craft a bespoke typography and captivating video installation, further accentuating the timeless allure of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations.

Over 300 archival pieces from the maison was put on lavish display.

In essence, the Time, Nature, Love exhibition transcends the realms of mere spectacle, offering patrons an extraordinary glimpse into the enduring legacy of Van Cleef & Arpels—a testament to the maison’s unwavering commitment to the pursuit of beauty, craftsmanship, and harmony, elevated to the realm of veritable artistry.

Different sections of the exhibition offers a unique visual feast, like this floating high jewellery necklace flanked by smaller jewellery pieces.

Van Cleef & Arpels

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