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Here’s what you can expect to see at the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition in January

DUBAI: French luxury label Van Cleef & Arpels is set to host an exhibition in Saudi Arabia in January. 

Titled “Van Cleef & Arpels: Time, Nature, Love,” the show, which will be open to the public on Jan. 19, will display 280 pieces — a combination of jewelry, sketches and objets d’art.

To get a deeper insight ahead of the exhibit, Arab News spoke to Lise Macdonald, director of patrimony and exhibitions at Van Cleef & Arpels.

“The curatorial approach of this exhibition really has an international resonance,” Macdonald said. “We wanted to have an exhibition in the Kingdom and had been in talks with the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, which was very interested in working with us on this show. So we felt we had a very good partner — a serious cultural institution in the heart of Riyadh,” Macdonald says of why Saudi Arabia was the chosen destination.

This necklace can be worn as two bracelets, 1970. (Supplied)

The pieces, which range from creations from the beginning of the maison in 1906 to more recent creations, are a mix of the patrimonial collection – i.e., a mix of Van Cleef & Arpels’s historical collection along with private loans and archives. “We have lots of original drawings on display too, which really help understand the process of jewelry-making.” 

On display are some important historical pieces, including the necklace of Begum Salimah Aga Khan and the “Zip” necklace.

“The begum’s necklace is one of the most important pieces of the patrimonial collection and is made from engraved emeralds, as well as gold and diamonds,” Macdonald said.

The spectacular Indian-inspired necklace features 44 engraved 18th-century emeralds and more than 745 diamonds and can be worn as a necklace, choker, two individual bracelets and a pendant that becomes a clip.

The Zip necklace, meanwhile, happens to be one of the maison’s most challenging and boldest creations — the idea of translating a zipper into a piece of high-jewelry shows the savoire faire that defines Van Cleef & Arpels.

‘Necklace,’ 1936. (Supplied)

One of Macdonald’s favorites includes a piece from the Nature section — a large bird of paradise brooch — beautifully capturing the house’s never-ending fascination with birds.

“It’s an amazing piece that has been captured in full motion. You can see the wings and feel that the bird in front of you is in full flight. Additionally, it is also symbolic — the piece was created during World War II — and became emblematic of freedom — of being able to fly,” she said. 

Another one of her favorites includes a sketch of a cage from the 1930s, which was created to house a real-life frog and later two stone-carved birds.

“We recently acquired a collection of drawings and found some studies of this cage. You will see on display the cage and four drawings showing different variations — it shows you the creative process behind the final work of art.”

Deciding what pieces to display required a constant dialogue between the maison and the curator (Alba Cappallieri).

“An exhibition is a very collaborative process — you’re working with curators, designers, architects, lighting designers — so it’s a constant source of discussion. For this show, we had two years of planning involved.”

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