This week we start installing this Museum’s most ambitious jewellery exhibition ever. Celebrating the central place of jewellery in cultures from antiquity to now, A fine possession: jewellery and identity will present over 700 pieces of jewellery from Australia, Europe, USA, Asia, Africa and the Pacific which were made and/or worn and collected in Australia.The exhibition opens at the Museum on 24 September.
A fascinating window into our past, jewellery remains an essential part of cultures around the globe. The exhibition will explore how we have expressed our desires, fears and hopes as well as our identity and creativity through jewellery; while jewellery we wear can reinforce our personal or cultural uniqueness, creative jewellers can express their identity and personal values through jewellery they design and make.
Among the rarely seen items on display will be ancient Egyptian scarab jewels, Chinese kingfisher-feather jewels and a magnificent tiara and necklace made from exotic beetles for an English aristocrat. Australian highlights will include gold-rush jewellery, Indigenous necklaces made from pearl shells, a diamond Art Deco brooch in the form of aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith’s legendary ‘Southern Cross’ aircraft and the fabulous ‘Satine’ necklace worn by Nicole Kidman in the film Moulin Rouge. A striking selection of contemporary studio jewellery will reveal the imagination and skill of some of the most talented local and international jewellers working at the crossroads of art, craft and design.
The exhibition is drawn from the Powerhouse Museum’s remarkable collection and includes generous loans from public and private holdings. In the countdown to the exhibition, we would like to share with you some pieces and their stories. They illustrate just some of the myriad of wondrous ways in which jewellery designers and makers as well as wearers and collectors express their creativity, identity and individuality.
We begin with this tiara by the renowned artist Fiona Hall who was recently selected to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale in 2015. This amazing piece has been crafted by Hall from sardine cans, her signature material, meticulously cut and hammered to form a glorious crown of six xanthorrhoea plants. The artist made this work in 1990 for Dr Paula Dawson, her friend artist and academic and subject of her photographic work. Dr Dawson wore the tiara on special occasions with a blue gown by Katie Pye made especially for the tiara. This tiara is part of the contemporary section of the exhibition featuring works inspired by Australian themes.
It also complements other examples of jewellery created by artists and designers usually working in other fields such as a modernist necklace by the Finnish product designer Tapio Wirkkala (see above image) and the Australian sculptor Robert Klippel, represented by a pair of earrings of the 1940s (on loan from the Art Gallery of New South Wales) also made for an artist friend.
Stay tuned for more favourite objects, updates and behind-the-scenes stories from the exhibition team.
Written by Eva Czernis-Ryl, Curator