an art historian and granddaughter of
joined the jewelry company Menē with her friend
in 2017, the first pieces were classic designs, such as circle-link chains, cuff bracelets, and pendants.
Picasso, who is chief artistic director at Menē, was looking for the right time to introduce jewelry inspired by artists that would embody the brand, which is based on transparent pricing of ethically sourced 24-carat gold and platinum. Her inspiration came after working on Louise Bourgeois & Pablo Picasso: Anatomies of Desire, a publication that accompanied a
Zurich exhibition of the same name that ran from June through to September.
The result is the Menē x
jewelry collection, pieces made of either gold or platinum that are far smaller replicas of three of the artist’s iconic sculptures selected in collaboration with
Bourgeois’ longtime assistant. Gorovoy is currently director of The Easton Foundation, which was founded by the artist in the 1980s and is now dedicated to preserving her legacy.
“We looked to the archives to see what was feasible and decided on these three sculptures, because they are really jewelry sculptures: The Spider, Arch of Hysteria, and Spiral,” says Picasso, wearing a 24-carat version of The Spider as a brooch during a premier for the collection at Hauser & Wirth’s Upper East Side gallery in New York.
Picasso, whose grandmother was
her grandfather’s one-time lover and muse, believes Bourgeois would have liked the gold jewelry versions of her work because of the organic feel of the pure metal, which is rarely used in jewelry because of a misconception, she says, that it’s too soft to work with.
“We found ways, with great craftsmen, to make it possible in 24 carat,” she says. “You can feel it—it’s not like any other alloys.”
Creating the pieces was a technical process that involved creating 3-D scans of the large sculptures and making wax prototypes, says Sunjoo
the firm’s creative director. Some of Bourgeois’ Spiders are as tall as 30 feet, while the Arch of Hysteria is about three-feet wide.
“From [the prototypes] you see how much of the texture you get, and we [then] made molds, and from that, we re-hand-worked it,” Moon says. “It was a back and forth process, and every single time relating back to the original sculpture.”
Creating a piece that could hang on a chain as a pendant from Arch of Hysteria—an image of a body bending back into a circle—or from Spiral was easier, as these were originally hanging sculptures. “They had a center of gravity,” she says.
But The Spider was “huge challenge,” Moon says. “We needed to work around which were the ones that would work the best as jewelry” while being true to the art. “With this collection, it’s all about respecting the work of the artist.”
There’s a nice symmetry to creating jewelry from Bourgeois’ sculpture. The artist wore jewelry and bangles her whole life, says Gorovoy, who was at the collection’s premier.
The original sculptures are bronze or steel—and much larger—offering quite a different feel than jewelry pieces that can be held in the palm of a hand, he adds, but “they’re beautiful,” he says. “I like the idea of getting these images to a different audience, and a wider audience.”
In the view of
Sotheby’s head of 20th Century design in Europe, who was also at the event, “it’s perfect that Diana has this idea not to recreate, but to continue the idea of Louise Bourgeois.”
In gold, the three pieces weigh from 53.02 grams for Spiral to 74.45 grams for The Spider.
Menē prices the jewelry based on the fluctuating price of the metal as set by the international bullion markets for gold and platinum, adding a fee for design, manufacturing, shipping, and insurance, equal to 20% of the metal’s price.
A gold version of The Spider, for example, was priced at $4,380.17 for a moment on Thursday: $3,369.01 for the price of the gold, and $1,010.71 for Menē’s fee. The metals used to create the jewelry are sourced from mines in the U.S. and Canada that Menē says practice ethical mining.