From the Village to Vogue

The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith

This exhibition honors the gift of twenty-one pieces of silver and gold jewelry created by the Brooklyn-reared modernist jeweler Arthur Smith (1917–1982), primarily from Charles Russell, Smith’s companion and heir.

Art Exhibition previously on at Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, United States.
From Wednesday 14 May 2008 to Sunday 01 January 2012

Model wearing Art Smith’s “Modern Cuff” Bracelet image

Published by Brooklyn Museum on Wednesday 22 October 2008.
Contact the publisher.

The presentation of Art Smith jewelry is enhanced by archival material from the artist’s estate, such as sketches, the original shop sign, Smith’s tools, and period photographs of models wearing the jewelry, along with thirty pieces of modernist jewelry from the permanent collection by such artists as Elsa Freund, Claire Falkenstein, Ed Weiner, and Frank Rebajes.

Inspired by surrealism, biomorphicism, and primitivism, Art Smith’s jewelry is dynamic in its size and form. Although sometimes massive in scale, his jewelry remains lightweight and wearable. The jewelry dates from the late 1940s to the 1970s and includes his most famous pieces, such as a “Patina” necklace inspired by the mobiles of Alexander Calder; a “Lava” bracelet, or cuff, that extends over the entire lower arm in undulating and overlapping forms; and a massive ring with three semi-precious stones that stretches over three fingers.

Trained at Cooper Union, Art Smith, an African American, opened his first shop on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in 1946. One of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-twentieth century, Smith was also an active supporter of black and gay civil rights, an avid jazz enthusiast, and a supporter of early black modern dance groups.

To complement the exhibition, the documents from the Art Smith archives, including photographs, are on view in the Library display cases on the second floor. A gift of Charles Russell, the papers include Art Smith’s designs for jewelry, rugs, and advertising. These documents will be on view until July 2008. If you would like to see more from the Arthur Smith Papers, please e-mail or call the Library: library@brooklynmuseum.org or (718) 501-6307.

From the Village to Vogue is organized by Barry R. Harwood, Curator of Decorative Arts, Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition is supported by the Harold S. Keller Fund with additional support from the Donald and Mary Oenslager Fund.