Louisa Guinness Showcases Jewelry by Artists in Her First Book

Elizabeth Paton, The New York Times, December 5, 2017


LONDON — For Louisa Guinness, the works of her favorite artists must always be worn to truly bring them to life.


The London-based dealer has spent the past 15 years carving out a market for art as jewelry, commissioning pieces from contemporary artists including Anish Kapoor, Claude Lalanne, Marc Quinn and Ron Arad, as well as hunting the globe for new and emerging names to design for her. A collector and gallery owner, she has curated several exhibitions on the subject of wearable art, building a reputation as a leader in the space in the process.


Now Ms. Guinness has written her first book. “Art as Jewellery: From Calder to Kapoor, published by ACC Art Books, is more than 300 pages, designed to sit on a coffee table and to be used as an introduction to the genre, as well as place many existing pieces into the wider context of their artists’ work.


“I’ve wanted to write this book for the best part of five years, but in the end I managed to do it in 12 months,” Ms. Guinness said. “The time had come to open doors in people’s minds to this whole new subject matter and answer their questions, particularly at a time when art jewelry is attracting more attention than it ever has before.”

In her book, Ms. Guinness explores the work of about 80 contemporary artists.

A major exhibition planned for next year at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, coupled with a spike in jewelry by artists coming onto the auction market, has fueled interest in the genre and increased the number of collectors, Ms. Guinness said. Her book explores the work of about 80 contemporary artists, is split into two parts (pre-2000 and post-2000) and is structured with what the author described as “unorthodox curatorial license.”


“I wanted to avoid any sense of the book being like a catalog, but also wanted to fill it with beautiful pictures and not get too academic,” Ms. Guinness said. So some artists get far larger chapters than others, for example, “either because I have been personally involved in some of those stories, or simply because I like their work more,” she added.


Certainly the book is a visual feast, filled with explanations and explorations around striking wearable art pieces by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Lucio Fontana and Roy Lichtenstein. Some works are bejeweled and beautiful, designed to enhance the aesthetic of the wearer. Most, however, are far more provocative, testing to the limits the proportions and positions of what may be worn on the human body and designed to make one think.


“The jewelry in the book is made by artists, not jewelers. They are not trained in the jewelry field, nor have they spent most of their time making jewelry,” Ms. Guinness said. “That means that they have freer rein and can challenge the boundaries of design in a way a more commercial designer often cannot.


“Wearing a piece of art gives it a whole new lease of life, and the artist’s jewel has been an underappreciated form for a long, long time. I’m hoping a look through these pages will start to help change that view. ”