Suzanne Syz, known for her colourful and whimsical style has created her own unique place in the world of high jewellery..or art jewellery…or is it art…or is it simply about bringing contemporary art and humour to a world that has been holding onto tradition as stiffly as some of the royal tailors on Savile Row?
When you have had the good fortune of growing up in the Warhol–Basquiat–Studio 54 era of New York in the 80’s – where contemporary art was really born – and have remained in that art world ever since, surrounded by emerging artists who are experimenting and having fun doing so, it is bound to bring out the best of your own artistic attributes. Add that to a free-spirited and determined Aries personality with a Swiss heritage of high craftsmanship and a quest for perfection and you find yourself facing the charming and sizzling Suzanne Syz.
Once you have met her, you will never forget her. Once you have seen her creations, you will never forget them either. Each and every unique piece that she creates can clearly be identified as coming from Syz. Of course one can often recognise the artist whose work may have inspired the piece, but that’s part of its charm. Imagine living a life surrounded by almost 800 contemporary art masterpieces? Your mind and your soul are receiving such incredible inputs that they must find their way to to be expressed in some form or another.
In the case of Suzanne Syz, interior designing was obviously not able to sufficiently combine her passions for art, form, colour, fashion, friendships and fun. When Elizabeth Taylor bought a necklace literally off her neck, she realised that she was onto something. Syz had been making her own jewellery as a form of expression for herself. She had not set out with a business plan to make millions, as some jewellers have done and neither had she set out with the pretentions of being a great artist. She just expressed what she felt like expressing, and that’s what makes her the fabulous artist that she is!
In some ways we can compare her to Andy Warhol although he was much more about the business of art than she is. Suzanne is more about sharing happiness and having fun. Suzanne may also be compared to the great Takashi Murakami, not simply due to her love of colour and the ‘now’, but more in that she challenges traditional timepiece craftsmen in Switzerland to make the craziest, unrealisable jewels, and they love it! They love her for it too. In fact, it’s impossible not to love her. She oozes love and happiness. Just as art has rubbed off onto her, her charm rubs off onto those that surround her including those who wear her exceptional pieces.
The closest we can get to finding a high jeweller that shares similarities to Syz would be Christian Dior’s fine jewellery creative director, Victoire de Castellane who often draws through inspiration from children’s miniature plastic dollhouse toys and has had her personal work exhibited as art in the famous Gagosian Gallery in Paris – a gallery that represents some of the greatest contemporary artists of our time. Not bad for someone who had started out as a studio assistant to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.
So are we surprised to find Suzanne Syz collaborating with the world renowned artists Sylvie Fleury, Kerstin Brätsch and Alex Isreal to show at Design Miami/Basel? No, we expect it. So, when will we see Syz represented by the art world’s ‘mega-dealers’, Larry Gagosian or David Zwirner? Do they consider jewellery to be more about design than art and would they consider Syz as a major art collector who therefore could not possibly qualify as an artist? Does the jewellery world struggle to accept her as either an art jeweller or a jewellery artist? Should she care?
Syz does what she enjoys and she does it well. She does not have to sell jewellery to survive. She does not have to please anyone other than her private clients. In that sense she is both a designer and a commissioned artist. When she creates what she simply wishes to create, she is an artist. However, because jewellery, like fashion, is made to be worn, it is categorised as a utilitarian luxury good rather than as art, so the concept of Suzanne Syz Art Jewels is, by its very nature, disruptive. As is contemporary art.
Some may be surprised to find the same Syz name also branding a Swiss private bank (Suzanne’s husband, Eric), as well as a famous art collection – developed from scratch by Suzanne and Eric and now permanently on display in a historic building on the Quai des Bergues in Geneva that also hosts the Syz Group – and then there is Syz Capital, founded by their son, Marc (as seen in the Warhol portrait of Suzanne). It is certainly less confusing than finding the Bulgari name on hotels & resorts.
Suzanne has certainly brought some ‘syzzle’ to not only the art and jewellery worlds but even the world of private banking, and she does so with a smile. How great is that? We can’t help loving her either.
Philippe Mihailovich and Caroline Taylor are luxury brand consultants at HAUTeLUXE and Visiting Professors of Luxury Brand Management at leading business, fashion and jewellery schools in both Paris and China. They are also Paris representatives and contributors to 2luxury2.com.