“Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century,” Departures.com
Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century
Get a first look at some of the stunning pieces included in this new exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, exploring the interplay of history, culture, art and design.
In an exhibit that opened this past Thursday, November 16, the Denver Art Museum explores the relationship of history, culture and art with 250 shimmering Cartier accessories in its show, “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century.”
The showcase features rare timepieces, jewelry and precious objects made by the Paris-based jeweler between 1900 and 1975, selected by Margaret Young-Sanchez, curator of pre-Columbian Art at the Denver Art Museum. Approximately 30 of the pieces are being displayed publicly for the first time, including a silver, gold, enamel, coral, obsidian and glass vanity set owned by Barbra Streisand, and a diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby necklace worn by Mrs. Cole Porter.
A portion of the show is dedicated to Cartier’s distinctive Art Deco work, which illustrates just how cutting edge the house was at the time: According to Young-Sanchez, while art deco jewelry and architecture is more closely associated with the post-WWI era, Cartier was far ahead of the trend, employing a more simplified geometric style beginning in the early 1910s.
Timepieces range from an early enameled pendent studded with diamonds from 1910 to the losange tank watch made in 1936, fashioned into the shape of a parallelogram and thought to be homage to surrealism. Of particular interest are a number of Cartier’s crystal-faced “mystery clocks,” created between 1926 and 1928, in which the hands of the clocks seem to float in air, and early works in platinum, which the house first employed in 1859 to create more open and lighter jewelry settings.
The show doesn’t just trace movements through time; visitors are also taken on a global journey of Cartier’s work. “A major component to the show is the work from India, Egypt and East Asia,” says Young-Sanchez. “The color schemes, jewelry and accessories by Cartier are influenced by, and, in some cases, incorporate artifacts from these cultures into the pieces themselves. The objects are then transformed by Cartier into something completely new.”
Anyone who has owned a Cartier piece, or even seen one up-close, would expect to be wowed by the craftsmanship and the glitter. But one of the more ambitious goals of the exhibition is to provide a sense of historical and cultural context by including news clippings, video, designs on paper and other ephemera alongside the Cartier works. “I want people to walk away first feeling dazzled and awed by the jewelry and craftsmanship and design,” says Young-Sanchez, “but I also want people to walk away with a fuller understanding of the historic changes of the 20th century and how Cartier fit into that.”
Whether you’re interested in historical design or simply want to gawk at jewels owned by royalty and Hollywood glitterati (like Princess Grace’s 10.5-carat, emerald cut engagement ring), get to Denver before March 15, 2015; this exclusive exhibit won’t be on view anywhere else. Taking in such a wide range of pieces together truly reveals the extent to which Cartier pushed the borders of aesthetics, technology and design. —Amiee White Beazley