Saturday, June 29, 2013

Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger

Flower brooch by CIS/Countess Zoltowska, circa 1955.

Big. Bold. Beautiful. These words could describe one of the glorious necklaces on display at the new exhibit Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger, now on view at The Museum of Arts and Design. They could also describe the show itself, of the type that doesn’t come along that often because it represents the life’s work of someone with a passion and a vision. The last time I felt moved by the collection of a single individual was during the 2011 exhibit Daphne Guinness at The Museum at FIT. Both shows remind me that a collection, of anything, is as individual as a fingerprint, and gives the viewer a window into the collector’s aesthetics, thoughts, and dream life. It can’t help being so personal.

A Schreiner necklace from 1960.

There are 450 objects on display, culled from Ms. Berger’s collection of 4,000 pieces, representing 80 designers, and over 100 years of fashion history. This is a show not to be missed for anyone who loves costume jewelry, whether vintage and contemporary. If vintage is your thing, you can explore the designs of world-famous costume jewelers like Maison Gripoix, Trifari, Miriam Haskell, Schreiner, Marcel Boucher, Kenneth Jay Lane, and many others. You can delight in designs by Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent. If you want to see more contemporary pieces, there are glorious works by Iradj Moini, Lawrence Vrba, Daniel Von Weinberger, and David Mandel.

This amazing feather necklace is by Maison Gripoix, 2000.

The back of the necklace.

MAD Curator Dorothy Globus said that costume jewelry offers “as much craftsmanship and design” as the real thing. “The settings, the soldering, it’s every bit as fine as fine jewelry.” One unique feature of the exhibit allows viewers to see the back of select pieces to enjoy the craftsmanship Ms. Globus mentioned.

Guest curator Harrice Simons Miller, a noted costume jewelry historian and author, remarked how special the show was because of “the huge range in years and designers.”

I want to wear this on the 4th of July! By Lawrence Vrba, 1990.

A 1975 cuff by Valentino. I am dying of love over this piece!

A Bowknot brooch from Chistian Dior by Maison Gripoix, 1960.

Ms. Berger began collecting costume jewelry when she was 13. Her first acquisition was a pair of Chanel earrings purchased at a French flea market. The daughter of a diamond merchant, she grew up in New York, lived in Belgium for 25 years, and now makes her home in Mexico. She is still collecting. “I’m a Sagittarius, and I love to travel. Whenever I’m traveling, I find something.”

The pictures I’m showing here are a fraction (a teeny tiny fraction!) of what is on display and are (some of) my absolute favorites, but there is so much to love in this exhibit.

Ms. Berger said, “It’s a happy show, you can’t leave without smiling.”

By CIS/Countess Zoltowska, circa 1955. She was known for crackled glass cabochons and bib-style necklaces.

A Venetian Mask by Timothy Szlyk for Thorin & Co., 2011.

Attributed to Yves Saint Laurent or Chanel, by Maison Gripoix, 1960.

By Yves Saint Laurent, 1990. Those baubles are plastic, not stones. Amazing!

A 1940 brooch by Joseff-Hollywood.

A beautiful collar necklace by an unknown French designer, circa 1950.

Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger is on view at The Museum of Arts and Design through January 20, 2014.

The Museum of Arts and Design
Jerome and Simona Chazen Building
2 Columbus Circle
Open daily 10AM-6PM (Thurs and Fri until 9PM)
Closed Mondays (except select holidays)


denton said...

We were there today, amazing! We ordered the book too.

Anonymous said...

I would do anything to see this exhibition - truly AMAZING! For me costume jewels have their own beauty in their own right and I would not hesitate to buy an old vintage piece over a modern offering.

Anonymous said...

I love your statement that a collection is as individual as a fingerprint. So true!

I'm excited to be seeing this one in August.

Adrienne Shubin said...

Oooh! What gorgeous baubles! Those feathers necklaces are my favorites.

Serene McEntyre said...

What an amazing collection! I think it shows that costume jewelry, when it's well made, can be just as cherished as gemstones and gold! It takes a good eye, no? GORGEOUS collection!! Hugs my friend! Serene

Anonymous said...

How fun! Everything is so colorful and bold and WOW. I am not sure about that feathery thing but I can see it working with a back-less gown. It's hard to imagine such an extensive collection being owned by one person. It's hard to imagine the size of the jewelry box. ;)

Harold Genesiaran said...

Nice Collection! I will start doing collection after reading this Post... It helps me a lot.

Jill said...

Thank you to everyone who left a comment. Vintage Traveler, I am SO excited that you get to see this exhibit in August. You will love it!

And Heather, one of the curators told me they were shocked that 450 pieces came in just 3 trunks. Isn't that amazing? I would expect Cleopatra's barge had to bring it to the museum, but no, just 3 trunks! XO, Jill

nancy john said...

What a splendidly marvelous collection! I'm a huge vintage brooch fan, too, and really began to build up my collection a serious way last year. just one year of really collecting costume jewelry brooches to remember a time when I didn't have them to reach for each morning'

Beautiful and Stylish jewelery

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