September 28, 2007 - Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) - Ornament as Art
September 28, 2007

Ornament as Art

Ornament as Art|
Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection Opens at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, September 30, Inaugurating National Tour 

MFAH-Organized Show Challenges Viewers to Look Beyond
Jewelry’s Traditions

Some 300 objects on view, from the 1960s through the present, all from the acclaimed collection
at the MFAH

Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection, on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston places contemporary jewelry within the larger framework of twentieth and twenty-first century art. Tracing the history of the artists and the aesthetic influences and technical innovation of the jewelry, the exhibition showcases a broad array of national and international works from the 1960s through today. In addition to approximately 275 pieces of jewelry, Ornament as Art also contains drawings, watercolors, sketchbooks and sculptural constructions by the artists. The exhibition draws entirely from the MFAHs celebrated Helen Williams Drutt Collection of contemporary jewelry, the most significant contemporary jewelry collection in the United States. Acquired by the museum in 2002, the collection, assembled by legendary scholar and educator Helen Drutt, consists of 720 pieces of jewelry and 84 works on paper. Over 175 artists from 18 different countries are represented with the largest concentration working in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia. Ornament as Art is on view from September 30, 2007 through January 21, 2008. The exhibition will then begin a national tour, appearing next at the Smithsonian American Art Museums Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C.
Ornament as Art is organized by Cindi Strauss, the MFAH’s curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design, and is drawn from a collection that was assembled over a forty-year period in which the history and developments in the field were observed and documented by the collector. The exhibition is structured as a progression, tracing the development of artist-made jewelry chronologically, while touching on major innovations in techniques, material, scale, and concept. Focused sections examine narrative impulses, the relationship between jewelry and major artistic movements of the 20th century, and the idea of performance jewelry. Among the artists represented are Gijs Bakker, the Netherlands; Liv Blåvarp, Norway; Claus Bury, Germany; Peter Chang, the United Kingdom; Georg Dobler, Germany; Lisa Gralnick, the United States; Otto Künzli, Switzerland; Stanley Lechtzin, the United States; Nel Linssen, the Netherlands; Bruno Martinazzi, Italy; Bruce Metcalf, the United States; Albert Paley, the United States; Wendy Ramshaw, the United Kingdom; Gerd Rothmann, Germany; Bernhard Schobinger, Switzerland; Olaf Skoogfors, the United States; Emmy van Leersum, the Netherlands; Tone Vigeland, Norway; David Watkins, the United Kingdom; Margaret West, Australia; and Hiramatsu Yasuki, Japan; among others.
Ornament as Art also provides the opportunity to study three themes in depth: narrative jewelry, the influence of twentieth-century art movements, and performance jewelry. Whether depicting personal stories, myths, politics, history, or popular culture, narrative works engage the viewer by transporting them to a particular time or place and by encouraging imagination, interaction, and fantasy. Many artists in the collection also use tenets of major art movements such as the Bauhaus, assemblage and collage, constructivism, Minimalism and Conceptualism in their jewelry. Finally, the interaction between jewelry and the body and the active dialogue that resulted from it informed a genre of jewelry that questions the fundamental traditions of what jewelry should be.
Ornament as Art is organized by the MFAH. Generous funding is provided by The National Endowment for the Arts; The Rotasa Foundation; Fulbright and Jaworski, L.L.P.; The Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design; The Mondriaan Foundation;
Ms. Anne L. Kinder, and The Consulate General of the Netherlands.
Exhibition Tour Schedule
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: September 30, 2007-January 21, 2008
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum: March 14-July 6, 2008
Mint Museum of Craft + Design, Charlotte, North Carolina: August 16, 2008-January 4, 2009

Tacoma Museum of Art, Tacoma, Washington: June 27-September 13, 2009

For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet
Houston, TX 77005

Image Credit:
Georg Dobler, Brooch, 1985, steel and acrylic lacquer, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Helen Williams Drutt Collection, museum purchase with funds provided by the Design Council, 2004, 2002.3722. Copyright: Georg Dobler

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH)
Share - Ornament as Art
  • Share