Mastery of an Art: Van Cleef & Arpels - High Jewelry and Japanese Craft

29 April to 6 August 2017 The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

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Highlights

Spirit of beauty fairy clip

It is with great pleasure that we present Mastery of an Art: Van Cleef & Arpels -High Jewelry and Japanese Crafts, an exhibition comparing the high jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels to the traditional crafts of Japan within the context of skilled Japanese and French workmanship.

Van Cleef & Arpels is a world-renowned high jewelry Maison, famed for its unique style and excellent craftsmanship. The company also organizes exhibitions of its heritage collection at various museums in the world. This year the event will be held in Kyoto.

From approximately 1,200 years ago to the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Kyoto served as the capital of Japan. Although the city experienced various ups and downs, it gradually evolved into an elegant society centering on culture. From the start of the Heian Period in 794, the city attracted all manner of people and things, and produced a host of high-grade items related to food, clothing, for example, lavish attire adorned with gold brocade, such as junihitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono), kosode (short-sleeved kimono), tsujigahana (a dyeing technique using vivid images of flowers), and noh play costumes were created. In addition, as there were many outstanding techniques available in the area, including everything from weaving to dyeing (as seen in the still ourishing tradition of Nishijin textiles), Kyoto was able to satisfy a variety of needs. This was made possible by the skills and spirit of seasoned craftsmen.

In this respect, Van Cleef & Arpels and Kyoto share a similar heritage. In both cases, highly skilled artisans have transmitted the mysteries of their art to successive generations, and it would be no exaggeration to say that this process is a common aspect of the human race that transcends both geographical area and historical period. This inspired the present exhibition, which focuses on the “mastery of an art.” We anticipate that the exhibition will generate a new context and forge a unique bond between high jewelry, an emblematic example of French savoir-faire, and the 1,200-year history of the traditional crafts of Japan. It is our sincere hope that this exhibition will serve as a testament to the spirit of cultural exchange and friendship that exists between France and Japan, and more specifically Paris and Kyoto.

  • Model of the Varuna yacht
  • Pampilles earrings
  • Vase with wisteria
  • Art Deco brooch
  • Model of the Varuna yacht
  • Pampilles earrings
  • Vase with wisteria
  • Art Deco brooch

Spirit of beauty fairy clip, 1941, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels
Model of the Varuna yacht, circa 1907, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels
Pampilles earrings, 1923, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels
Vase with wisteria, By Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845–1927), Late 19th–early 20th century (Meiji–Taisho era), Wired cloisonné, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, photograph: Kimura Yoichi
Art Deco brooch, circa 1930, Van Cleef & Arpels Collection, Patrick Gries © Van Cleef & Arpels
Four-panel folding screen with peacocks, By Nishimura Sozaemon XII (1855-1935), 1900-1910, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. photograph: Kimura Yoichi