The Museum of Arts and Design held a cocktail party for the opening of the Museum’s newest exhibit: “Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger.” Berger, a renowned acquirer of costume jewelry possesses some of the most important pieces of designer jewelry of this century. Barbara Berger was born in New York City in 1942 to a father who was an American diamond merchant. At the age of 13, she purchased a pair of Chanel earrings at a Paris flea market-and the rest is history. Berger’s private collection features over four thousand pieces from more than eighty designers, and represents over fifty years of collecting.
|Miriam Haskell by Lawrence Vrba
Many of the designs were made specifically to be worn with haute couture clothing by premier fashion designers. The featured jewelry designers of this over four hundred and fifty piece exhibition include Kenneth Lane, Lanvin, Missoni, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Miriam Haskell, Boucher, Balenciaga, and Trifari. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum from June 25th through September 22nd (with a portion remaining open until January 11th). The company of Miriam Haskell, the famed jewelry designer who died in 1981, subsidized the show and donated a gilded metal and pearl grape necklace to the Museum’s permanent collection.
|Barbara Berger & David McFadden|
This collection was organized by David McFadden, Chief Curator and Vice President for Programs and Collections at the Museum of Arts and Design, in collaboration with guest curator and jewelry historian Harrice Miller. McFadden said that he and Berger worked on this exhibition for the past eight to ten years. This is the first costume exhibition in the Museum’s history and one where fantastic objects and great concepts were seamlessly merged. They chose the best pieces from her collection with meticulous attention to not only excellence in appearance but also to perfection in execution and craftsmanship. While there are no precious stones involved in the making of this jewelry, all the pieces are historical couture pieces with intricate detailing and work.
|William De Lillo circa 1972|
Barbara Berger reiterated her pride in this presentation by stating, this “is the most amazing day of my life- to see all this effort come to fruition.” This has been Barbara’s all consuming passion and therefore, she appreciates the Museum’s vision of her core collection of vintage jewelry as being highly contemporary. Some of her favorite works in the collection are those of Miriam Haskell who she views as impeccable for her strength and creativity in jewelry construction. This exhibition is Barbara’s life work and the beauty of the jewelry mirrored that dedication.
Many of the pieces in the display looked highly familiar, akin to something Madonna, Lady Gaga or even Beyonce might wear. The collection’s costumey vibe coupled with its innate beauty gave it a duality; On one hand the collection seemed playful and frivolous and yet on the other, this was a serious, heady collection worthy of attention and exploration. As Coco Chanel said, “costume jewelry is not made to give woman an aura of wealth, but to make them beautiful.” These pieces are imbued with a fantasy and richness providing an affordable way for women to dazzle with their creativity and daring.
The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication on the Barbara Berger collection published by Assouline, with a preface by Pamela Golbin, who is the chief curator of Paris’ Musée de la Mode et du Textile; an essay by fashion guru Iris Apfel; and text by jewelry historian Harrice Simons Miller. A wide range of educational programs will accompany the exhibition, including lectures and panel discussions, designer-led exhibition tours, and hands-on jewelry workshops and demonstrations in MAD’s 6th floor Open Studios.
For more info: Claire Laporte
Manager of Public Affairs