Alexander Calder's Jewelry is as Imaginative as His Sculptures


Some of the iconic modernist's sculptures tower over crowds in cities around the world. Less known are the ones he made to adorn necks, wrists, and ears. 

BY RACHEL SMALL

Anjelica Huston circa 1976 wearing Alexander Calder's The Jealous Husband necklace, which he made around 1940. (Photo: Evelyn Hofer/Courtesy estate of Evelyn Hofer)

Anjelica Huston circa 1976 wearing Alexander Calder's The Jealous Husband necklace, which he made around 1940. (Photo: Evelyn Hofer/Courtesy estate of Evelyn Hofer)

American artist Alexander Calder is best known for towering steel sculptures and mobiles that balance imposing size with graceful shapes and bright colors. Less well-known is that, throughout his career, he crafted upwards of 1,800 one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, often as gifts for friends and family, that echoed qualities of his larger works on a miniature, intimate scale. This month, London’s Louisa Guinness Gallery has a solo exhibition of his jewelry, the first in the United Kingdom (through Nov. 5). Titled “The Boldness of Calder,” it brings together 25 pieces—of which 15 are for sale and 10 are on loan—all made between 1936 and 1950. Unusual for a gallery, items on sale sit alongside others loaned by private collections and institutions, including four central pieces from the Calder Foundation that have never before been formally exhibited. The occasion has been over a decade in the making for owner Louisa Guinness, who founded the space in 2003 to focus on artist-made jewelry. “My decision to establish my gallery sprung from seeing my mother-in-law’s beautiful Calder necklace,” she says. So, it was both personal passion and professional ambition that drove Guinness to work relentlessly at rounding out the show’s components. “It was imperative that I gave the moment its due circumstance,” Guinness adds. “I felt compelled to show key, museum-quality works.” Also on view will be photographs of women wearing his jewelry, like Peggy Guggenheim, Simone de Beauvoir, and others Guinness describes as the “most forward-thinking minds of their time.” These will be juxtaposed to new photographs of the pieces, shot by fashion photographer Alexander English, and styled on a model in a clearly contemporary manner. “I wanted to show the works’ timelessness,” she says. “The images represent the of-the-moment appeal of Calder’s jewelry, which endures today.”  

A piece called Flower, which Calder made in 1945. (Photo: Courtesy Louisa Guinness Gallery)

A piece called Flower, which Calder made in 1945. (Photo: Courtesy Louisa Guinness Gallery)

A model wearing Flower in 2016. (Photo: Alexander English/Courtesy Alexander English, Louisa Guinness Gallery and the Calder Foundation)

A model wearing Flower in 2016. (Photo: Alexander English/Courtesy Alexander English, Louisa Guinness Gallery and the Calder Foundation)