Exhibition Review: Beyond Bling: Jewelry from the Lois Boardman Collection

Fritsch Ring at LACMA
Figure 1. Karl Fritsch, Ring, 2005, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Lois and
Bob Boardman, © Karl Fritsch; photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

As the materials available to jewellery artists become more eclectic, so does their output. Such is the case with the 300-plus exquisite contemporary pieces from around the world (figure 1) donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) by Lois Boardman of Pasadena. Beyond Bling: Jewelry from the Lois Boardman Collection, LACMA’s exhibition of this donation, contains more than 50 of the pieces. The non-traditional jewellery, acquired by Boardman over several decades, features materials such as plastic, glass, steel, feathers, and even LEGO blocks alongside more traditional choices such as gold and silver. The pieces she found during her travels are no less arresting than those she commissioned, such as the gold cast of her nose, completed in 1988 (figure 2).

Gold cast of Lois Boardman’s nose
Figure 2. Gerd Rothmann, Die Goldene Nase Nosepiece, 1988, cast from Lois
Boardman's nose. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Bob Boardman,
© Gerd Rothmann, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

The exhibition space itself is modelled on the Renaissance phenomenon known as the “cabinet of curiosities”, private collections of unusual objects that defied easy classification. The pieces in the otherwise spare room are displayed in the categories available to early scientists: Animal, Vegetable and Mineral. “Plastic” has been added as a more recent classification. Among the pieces are David Bielander’s blend of leather, silver and thumbtacks creating the startlingly realistic Koi bracelet (figure 3, left); Miriam Hiller’s powder-coated stainless steel Loperenias brooch, which evokes the open bloom of a flower (figure 3, right); and Bernhard Schobinger’s ring, with a nail as both band and setting and a smoky quartz as its centrepiece. Many of these avant-garde pieces are displayed alongside their natural inspirations, as with David Bielander’s stainless steel teaspoon and gold Dung Beetle brooch, which is shown alongside Egyptian scarabs dating as far back as 1991 BCE. Nikki Marx’s Royal Raiment necklace of peacock feathers and suede (figure 4) is strikingly similar to a feathered Incan tunic from the late 15th to early 16th century. 

Koi bracelet and Loperenias brooch
Figure 3. Left: David Bielander, Koi bracelet, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Bob Boardman, © David Bielander, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA. Right: Mirjam Hiller, Loperenias brooch, 2012, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Bob Boardman, © Mirjam Hiller, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Royal Raiment necklace with Incan tunic
Figure 4. Nikki Marx’s Royal Raiment necklace, made from peacock feathers and suede, is set beside a traditional Incan feathered tunic. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

The pieces grouped in the Plastics category may be the most startling of the lot. Plastic’s malleability and versatility are well known, and these jewellers make the most of its properties. Among the plastic creations are a torso-sized “necklace” reminiscent of a superhero costume and a torque necklace by Ann Scott that uses copper and silver. The centrepiece of this section is probably the Maharajah’s 6th Necklace, Emiko Oye’s recreation of the treasure made by the House of Boucheron in 1928 for the maharajah of Patiala, India. LEGO pieces are fitted together to stand in for the emeralds and diamonds in the original (figure 5).

LEGO necklace
Figure 5. Emiko Oye, Maharajah’s 6th Necklace, 2008, Los Angeles County Museum of
Art, gift of Lois and Bob Boardman, © Emiko Oye, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

As befits such a modern Collection, Beyond Bling is on Snapchat. Here visitors can insert themselves into scenes and virtually “wear” jewellery from the Boardman collection while seeing photos of previous attendees. The multimedia component combines with the show’s modern artistry to make this a truly 21st-century jewellery exhibition.
Beyond Bling: Jewelry from the Lois Boardman Collection is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) until 5 February 2017. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens aged 65 and over and students, and free for children aged 17 and under. All guests receive free general admission on the second Tuesday of every month. LACMA is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm, Friday from 11.00 am to 8.00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm. The museum is closed on Wednesdays.

Jennifer-Lynn Archuleta is the editor of Gems & Gemology.