“No one could believe I got all these Calders for the auction,” says Tiffany Dubin, artist jewelry specialist and head of sales at Sotheby’s, of the pieces she bought for Art as jewelry as art, the auction house’s first international sale dedicated to artists’ jewellery. Auctions open on September 23 for more than 150 lots from 65 artists, including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Claude Lalanne, Ettore Sottsass, Louise Bourgeois, the list goes on. Prepare your paddle: When measured against the costs and availability of their artwork, the prices of these goods are relatively accessible.
Ahead of the announcement of Sotheby’s first international auction, Dubin held what she calls “pop-up” sales of artist jewelry, including one with Louisa Guinness (of London’s famed Louisa Guinness Gallery) at the auction house. The East Hampton outpost last year. The experience revealed a growing interest in these miniature and portable sculptures. “The discerning collector understands that he can own a masterpiece created on a human scale,” Dubin said in a press release at the time.
Today, his confidence in the market remains. “What I’ve found is that the people buying are contemporary collectors, not jewelry collectors,” Dubin told AD PRO. “There are people who have their grandmother’s diamonds, but want something a little more quirky that has a story, something to talk about, and that they can put in their apartment like a miniature sculpture. .”
Some of the pieces in the upcoming sale read as edgy, and others border on cunning. The aforementioned Alexander Calders, for example, includes a tiara made of hammered swirling patterns, similar to those in his paintings. (The piece, estimated to be worth around $200,000, was given by Sir Kenneth Clark to his wife, Lady Kenneth Clark, around 1938.) Calder, who fashioned his first piece of jewelry at the age of 8 for her sister’s dolls, was prolific in the category, producing “approximately 1,800 unique pieces of brass, silver and gold body ornaments, often adorned with found objects such as beach glass, ceramic shards and wood,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Calder collection for the sale also includes a whimsical floral headpiece crafted in hammered brass, a bracelet and headband fashioned into wave figures, and a coiled pendant.
Likewise, modern furniture designer Harry Bertoia was also a dedicated jewelry designer. He earned a full scholarship to the Cranbrook Academy of Art after director Eliel Saarinen reviewed his portfolio of jewelry designs. He even went on to design and manufacture Ray Eames’ gold wedding band. For the Sotheby’s sale, Dubin obtained two brooches – silver abstractions of a crab and a snake, each valued at around $35,000 – and a pendant consisting of a series of vertically suspended rods reminiscent of the kinetic sculptures of the Creator.