Photography: Gorka Postigo
For stylish women in the art world, looking cool sometimes means getting as close as possible to resembling an actual work of art while still being able to physically move. So a collection of expressive baubles by 15 contemporary greats — namely, Louise Bourgeois, John Baldessari, Phyllida Barlow, Stefan Brüggemann, Subodh Gupta, Mary Heilmann, Andy Hope 1930, Cristina Iglesias, Matthew Day Jackson, Bharti Kher, Nate Lowman, Paul McCarthy, Caro Niederer, Michele Oka Doner, and Pipilotti Rist — is likely to make major waves among the few with the cash to afford them and the panache to pull them off.
The project is called “Portable Art“, and it’s the brainchild of former supermodel Celia Forner and mega-gallerist Iwan Wirth, who came to the idea in 2008 over dinner in Zurich after he complemented her gold Louise Bourgeois spider brooch. “[It] evolved in a very organic way,” recalls Forner. “I like to wear pieces that transform me, that mean something to me or that remind me of a moment in time.” The collection, as well as a series of photographs by Gorka Postigo of Spanish actress Rossy de Palma wearing several of the pieces, will be on view at Hauser & Wirth from April 20 through June 17.
Photo: Louise Bourgeois, Spiral (2008)/Gorka Postigo /© The Easton Foundation/VAGA, New York
The notion of jewelry as miniature sculpture is nothing new — in the early 20th century, big names like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Max Ernst began creating wearable objects, while Alexander Calder went on to produce one-of-a-kind pieces as a part of his extended artistic practice, crafting almost 2,000 during his lifetime. Today, everyone from Damien Hirst to Kenny Scharf has dabbled in the avant-garde accessory trade. But despite this storied history, according to Forner, “it is for most of [the participating artists], their first experience creating a body ornament work.”
One notable exception is Bourgeois, who died in 2010, and over the course of her career spawned an army of tiny, gilded arachnids — like the one that originally inspired Forner and Wirth — based on her own eight-legged sculptures. Her contributions to the “Portable Art” collection are massive cuff bracelets in both silver and yellow gold plate that breathe new life into the notion of an “arm party.”
Photo: John Baldessari, Crowd Arm (2016)/Gorka Postigo/Courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery and Hauser & Wirth
Meanwhile, the rest of the collection ranges from the cheeky to the downright weapon-like. In the first category are Mary Heilmann’s large, lacquered disks that transform the chest of the wearer into a living, breathing artist’s palette. In the latter category is John Baldessari’s incredible (and aptly named) Crowd Arm, a massive gold spike affixed to a gold or silver plate and worn on the elbow. While these definitely look like they would break the aforementioned “still being able to physically move” rule, I do imagine they might come in very handy in eliminating any unwanted male attention. Nobody’s gonna catcall the chick with two massive gold spikes attached her elbows, right? In fact, I think the concept of jewelry as self-defense tool definitely has legs in 2017.
Photo: Mary Heilmann, Untitled (2016)/Gorka Postigo/Courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery and Hauser & Wirth
If spikes aren’t your style (or you’re afraid of the ramifications of accidentally gouging an eye out on the L train), Baldessari has also created a gold earring in the shape of a human nose, which hearkens back to wearable art’s roots with the Surrealists. Or, if what you’re seeking is something envelope-pushing in a different way, Paul McCarthy’s controversial ‘butt plugs’ have been turned into necklaces. There are also more traditional offerings, like a pendant by Subodh Gupta where a waterfall of emeralds and diamonds spill from a gold vessel. The best part, according to Gupta, is that no two people will ever wear the same piece in the same way.
“When making a work with the intention of it being something that will be worn, one automatically begins to think of it in the context of the human body,” Gupta says. “When someone is wearing an artwork, his or her own body and persona becomes the context for the work, so it can entirely change the meaning of a work. In some sense, a certain amount of control that one may have had over an artwork, as the artist, is lost.”