A new exhibition in Riyadh—the first and largest of its kind—puts on show spectacular Van Cleef & Arpels creations until mid-April 2023. Take a look inside the much-talked-about showcase by the high jewelry maison.
Giving visitors an opportunity to discover an enchanting vision – one in which Van Cleef & Arpels’s expert craftsmanship and pursuit of harmony come together as a true art form – the “Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love” patrimonial exhibition has begun from January 19, and runs until April 15, 2023. Some stunning pieces are on display at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, displaying the works of the maison for the first me in the Kingdom. Supported by the Saudi Ministry of Culture, the exhibition features more than 280 jewelry pieces, watches, and precious objects created since the maison was founded in 1906 – alongside more than 90 archival documents, sketches and gouaché designs.
Two noteworthy pieces on display are the breathtaking Princess Faiza Collaret, and the Queen Nazli necklace. Created in 1929, the art deco collaret is remarkable for its 10 drop-shaped emeralds of extraordinary quality and its diamonds of multiple cuts and shapes. Weighing 165ct, it was purchased by the Egyptian Crown, and is a typical Court jewel that Princess Faiza of Egypt, the sister of King Farouk, would love to wear on special occasions, including gala balls in Paris, Zohria Palace, and on the French Riviera. A woman of great elegance and the owner of a highly original collection of jewelry, Princess Faiza appreciated the fusion of old stones in more contemporary settings. The necklace that she bought in 1929 was modified in the late 1930s. It takes the form of a highly flexible choker, whose diamond droplets are set with nine old emerald pendeloques. A 10th emerald is positioned at the back of the jewel on a particularly ornate clasp. Having been acquired by a new owner, the piece reappeared at auction in November 2013, at Christie’s in Geneva. It was purchased by Van Cleef & Arpels for its private collection.
Another art deco masterpiece is the Queen Nazli necklace. Set with 673 diamonds for 204.03ct, and a center sun motif, in 1938, on the wedding of Princess Fawzia of Egypt to Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, future Shah of Iran, Van Cleef & Arpels created jewelry to be worn by the bride and by her mother, Queen Nazli of Egypt. Engulfed with platinum and diamonds, the Collaret delicately holds more than 600 diamonds, with nearly 200 to 300ct, and is among the 20th century’s finest examples unifying the lightness of white jewelry and the elegance of art deco. Subsequently, Queen Nazli wrote a letter to Van Cleef & Arpels expressing ‘her great satisfaction’ and placed another order for a Passe-Partout necklace in yellow gold and colored sapphires, and a gold box decorated with a Colibri hummingbird motif in Mystery Set rubies and sapphires.
The exhibition is curated by Alba Cappellieri, professor of Jewelry Design at Milan Polytechnic University and president of the Milano Fashion Institute, and its scenography is conceived by international architect-designer Johanna Grawunder. Drawing from Italian writer Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Cappellieri chose key concepts through which she interprets the maison’s creations and their relationship with time. Grawunder, meanwhile, brought into play light and color to generate an immersive experience and a timeless journey to discover the maison’s jewelry creations. “Inspired by the colors of Saudi Arabia, I have used many RGB LEDs to create colorful shades and an atmosphere that I love to define as ethereal. This atmosphere generates a gradual transition from one room to another, creating a dialogue between all the protagonists of the exhibition,” Grawunder says.
The displays revolve around three sections: Time, Nature, and Love. The first section, devoted to Time, extends across 10 rooms. Cappellieri’s objective was to demonstrate the ability of the maison to understand and represent its time, especially considering the challenges for jewelry to be timeless, and to represent past, present, and future. “Coming from a design culture, where every object must represent its time, I realized that the ability of the maison is in bridging sometimes controversial aspects,” Cappellieri continues. “In Van Cleef & Arpels, you find alternative and ephemeral, you find global and local. You can find the details and the big gems. You can find beauty in terms of ornamentation, and you can find science in terms of innovation. That’s the story I tried to tell through this exhibition.” At the very center of the exhibition is the section on Love, displaying creations that are tokens of some of the most mythical romances of the 20th century. “For me, love is the most powerful energy in the world and every piece of jewelry is crafted with love,” Cappellieri says. “Moreover, Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry influenced some of the most legendary love stories of the 20th century with its symbols and gifts of love.” The third section dedicated to Nature is expressed through botany, flora, and fauna. A time-honored source of inspiration, nature has provided Van Cleef & Arpels with a boundless repertoire. “Through the maison’s creations, nature becomes art, in terms of gemstones and craftsmanship, but also as a humanistic attitude towards harmony,” Cappellieri concludes.
One of the main highlights of the opening ceremony was a trio of special performances by none other than Farrah el Dibany, the Egyptian-African mezzo-soprano who was also the first singer to join the Paris Opera Academy. Below, a closer look at her time on stage to celebrate Van Cleef & Arpels.