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Revisiting the JAR exhibit


Finally saw the JAR exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in
person. I tried to be asopen minded as possible, aware of the
previous bias I had developed fromreading about it.

The show was a serious disappointment to me. The lighting onmost of
the pieces was so bright and close up that all you could see was
thegeneral sparkle and not the details of the settings. There were
too many ofthem, intoo small a space, with no evident selective
process to show the best. Somuch for the presentation!

Now for the jewelry itself:I found the forms generally repetitive
and unimaginative. The gemstones were heavily encrusted on some
rather bulbous forms, flat onothers, but covering just about every
surface. I know that they were allprecious stones, but nothing in
the pieces themselves spoke ofthe beauty ofthe stones or showed them
at their best. There were a few where the gradation of colors was
interesting, but notremarkable.

This kind of jewelry does not particularly attract me, so Imay have
carried my bias with me anyway. However the thought occurred to me:
Ifpeople had been told beforehand that the gems were all (very good)
fakes, andthe metals were all (very good) plating, would so many
people have thought theywere beautiful? Would JAR have had a show at
the Met? Do we have a tendency toconflate monetary value with

A truly marvelous exhibit, which I would encourage everyoneto see,
is theSILLA gold. Silla was the Gold center of the world in Korea
fromabout 200 to 800 AD. The materialin this show was all excavated
from tombs roughlyin that time period. Itincludes gold jewelry (with
granulation), pottery, glass, beautiful and unusualBuddha figures.
Everything was beautiful tolook at! I found it very thrilling.

Sandra Buchholz
Elegant insects Jewelry


Thanks for the tip about the Silla exhibit. Fabulous.


JAR is an eccentric jeweller that has a loyal following-partially
because of his eccentricities (as well as those of the workers that
surround him in his atelier)- and there is some basis to the fact
that the ‘rich and famous’ are the people that tend to collect JAR.
He is a master of the pave’ technique. He has had maybe 2 shows in
the entire retrospective career he began in Paris, where his work was
well received by aristocrats and celebrities that could afford to pay
for his eye in matching stones (many stones), rather amassing the
quality and quantity his pieces required for the majority of his
designs (one offs entirely) to date which most often represented
themes from natural history of the world. He has only recently been
experimenting with new materials and/or other than fully pavee’d

One thing to be said about the exhibits at the MET is that the
curator has failed in many, many exhibits of jewellery to offer
correct education as well as delivering a complete retrospective of
many artist’s work-JAR’s career has not escaped the flaws and
misdirection rampant with the person curating his “retrospective” as
it is pointed more towards a testament to the collectors from whom
the museum borrowed works. a double edged conundrum when you have a
brilliant fabricator (comparable to the exclusive work of Karl
Faberg=e) whose work exists as one off pieces by design. Rosenthal is
concerned with and allied to his collectors as equally as the
collectors are privileged to own JAR pieces. Once you understand the
mutual exclusivity of the relationship between jeweller and patron,
the pieces then are more contextual and designs portray some aspect
that cultivating a relationship with his patrons yields in terms of
subject matter. It is marketing on a highly personalised level, if
not communicating a relationship that intimates JAR is one’s personal
jeweller. Understanding the collection requires the student to have a
knowledge of the original owner and a piece’s provenance- without
which the design on its own lacks the " life air " imbued by JAR in
the design as intended for the original commission or owner. His
production in a year is limited to 50-maybe 70 pieces (that I am
aware of, and I have been a scholar of Joel Rosenthal’s work for over
40 years), and the creation of each piece is definitely pointed when
not commissioned: he knows his clients, and their shopping habits
including when they will visit the atelier; If a piece is not
commissioned ahead of time he is fairly sure who will buy it while
he is sketching it.! This level of intimacy with collectors is as
close as one gets to the romanticism of the medieval system of
patronage that determined the artisan/craftsman’s status with the
nobility and courts of the old world relative to a jeweller’s
reputation being as weighty as the excellence of skills he (or she)
could demonstrate setting that individual’s work above the rest. The
exhibit fails to make that connection in attempting to educate the
public, as well as demonstrate the pieces that illustrate JAR’s
career, and the further responsibility of offering some information
on fabrication in general when presenting a collection of a master of
any technique. It would be like exhibiting Lizzie Gaultieri’s work
without a discussion of granulation! As for the repro pieces -I am
stunned that JAR allowed the curator(s) to sell the pieces in the
MET’s store that are being offered. They are not representative nor
in any way reflect the quality or primary design choices of JAR’s
life’s work but with any exhibit there comes merchandising based on
an artists work-but the art jewellery selected. sucks…plain and
simply. I was extremely disappointed at best, in the entire exhibit-
from curation to the inevitable trinket sales in any museum’s gift
shop following an exhibition event(albeit the MET’s Gallery Luxe!) to
the profit sharing, let’s call it, that the exhibition represents as
JAR’s gift to the museum relative to any patron’s support (proceeds
from sales go to the MET as an in-kind donation in support of the
institution).This is JAR’s 3rd exhibition in his lifetime (he is
still alive and working) and as such an important event in the worlds
of art and jewellery if fails as the result of the MET’s influence,
or rather their lacking in an understanding and jenusse c’est quoit
(in the truest sense of the phrase!) of such an important mid
20th-21st cent. art jeweller as JAR.


Thank you for the explanation. It puts the exhibit in a historical
context that is very interesting.

Elegant Insects Jewelry