Alexander Calder is best known as the man who introduced the mobile to the art world.
In a recent Tate Modern retrospective, his giant, astronomical sculptures rotated overhead, some powered by invisible motors, others relying on gravity and the movement of air created by visitors. They rely on delicate balance, suggesting that beauty underpins the very forces that hold the universe together.
A friend of Mondrian and a part of the cubist and futurist movements, Calder was an important 20th century sculptor, counting Albert Einstein among his fans. What is less well-known about Calder is that he was also an adept jewellery designer, crafting earrings, bracelets, headdresses, necklaces and brooches, which were considered – predictably, given his artistic pedigree – rather outre.
Fashioned from silver and brass wire, his creations were often oversized, interacting with the wearer rather than embellishing them. Like his sculptures, these pieces relied upon balance between opposing forces, and were works of performance in themselves.
A new exhibition at Louisa Guinness Gallery will bring together many of these pieces for the first time in the UK, drawing on private collections from across the world. “The women who wore his jewellery were some of the most forward thinking and unconventional of their time,” says Guinness.
“Simone de Beauvoir, Georgia O’Keeffe and Peggy Guggenheim are among them and our decision to exhibit them wearing Calder’s pieces alongside the jewels themselves is a celebration of their, and Calder’s, subversive spirit.
“We were also keen to show the contemporary relevance of Calder’s jewellery. Not only was his artistic manifesto prescient, these jewels have a timelessness and of-the-moment relevance.”