How to impart movement into precious materials: The Art of Movement by Van Cleef & Arpels

Design Museum is hosting free jewellery exhibition from Van Cleef & Arpels.

Through High Jewellery creations, archive documents and lender masterpieces, this exhibition (23 SEPTEMBER – 20 OCTOBER 2022, Design Museum London, UK) by French luxury jewelry brand Van Cleef & Arpels draws visitors into a world of creativity and craftsmanship dedicated to movement.

Featuring almost a hundred creations from Van Cleef & Arpels‘ patrimonial collection, numerous archive documents and lender masterpieces, this exhibition illustrates the French High Jewellery Maison’s constant quest to impart movement into precious materials.

Van Cleef & Arpels has constantly blended the excellence of its High Jewellery savoir-faire with great delicacy of vision in order to imbue the most precious materials with lightness and dynamism.

1963, @Van Cleef & Arpels Fauna

Amongst a selection of pieces from the luxury Maison’s patrimonial collection, archives documents and private collector’s creations, the exhibition draws visitors into a dreamlike world of movement and harmony.

This artistic journey is divided into multiple themes. Nature Alive, Dance, Elegance and Abstract Movements are some of them. Each highlights a facet of motion explored by Van Cleef & Arpels since its foundation in 1906.

Notable for their motifs, their three-dimensional volumes and their composition, the creations stand out as manifestos of the art of movement.

Drawing of a Fairy clip, circa 1940 – @Van Cleef & Arpels Archives

Van Cleef & Arpels’ Human Odyssey

The adventurous spirit of the early modern period – followed by the industrial era of the 19th century – gave rise to ever more sophisticated machines for exploring the world. Since its foundation in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has used its creations to accompany that bold human odyssey of wanderlust.

This idea of movement expanded to include depictions of the human body in motion: the rhythm of its positions, the beauty of its curves, its surging leaps. Twirling in tutus of precious stones or golden sequins, ballerinas have enlivened the Maison’s universe since 1941, dance remaining an endless source of inspiration to this day.

Nature alive for Van Cleef & Arpels

Whether figurative or stylized, the Maison’s flora and fauna-inspired creations bear witness to its taste for living nature. Birds with delicate plumage, dreamlike fairies and butterflies with outspread wings flit across the sky, filling the air with poetry.

Floating on a precious breeze, diamond feathers alight on shoulders, Mystery Set flowers blossom on jacket lapels, or prepare to bloom on day or evening dresses. The bouquets of the late 1930s and early 1940s, with their blue and yellow sapphire corollas, seem freshly picked. Like snapshots, the animals that adorn clips, necklaces and bracelets appear to have been frozen in mid-action.

Ballerina clip, 1952; @Van Cleef & Arpels Collection

Elegance: the Van Cleef & Arpels way

Since its creation, Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn inspiration from the world of couture, like a homage to its place of birth. One of the specificities of these jewels is an ability to transform to match different outfits. The central motif of a ribbon-shaped necklace can be removed and worn as a brooch, while double clips separate to adorn each side of the neckline.

The appearance of motifs inspired by passementerie gave rise to pieces that echo the movements of the body. Depicting bows and ribbons, they also illustrate the renascent femininity of the post-war period. Supreme examples of flexibility, jewels echoing serge fabric or rope motifs mold themselves perfectly to the silhouettes of the women who wear them.

1972, Van Cleef & Arpels Fauna

Abstract movements

Attentive to artistic movements throughout the 20th century, the French luxury Maison interpreted them in an original way, playing with shapes and materials.

From the geometrically-decorated boxes of the 1920s to the pure, rounded lines inspired by Modernism and the kinetic magic of the hippie era, Van Cleef & Arpels has always played with the beholder’s gaze. Abstract yet fun, some works from the 1960s onwards recall Op Art, drawing us into an interplay of illusions. The movement of the stars, lightning bolts illuminating the night sky and the dance of meteorites round out this selection, in a final burst of creativity.

Following the ribbon

To highlight this rare set of creations, the scenography echoes the theme of movement. Welcoming visitors at the entrance, a floating matte ribbon takes the shape of an ethereal flower. Inspired by the Silhouette Flower clip – an emblematic design imagined by Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1930s –, this anamorphosis unfolds to accompany visitors throughout the exhibition, guiding them on their journey.

@Trois-Clochettes clip, 1964; @Van Cleef & Arpels Collection

1946, @Van Cleef & Arpels Fauna