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Another world: the Van Cleef & Arpels traveling exhibit

21 Jun 2012

I am in awe of the Van Cleef & Arpels traveling exhibition. But alas, I can only look at photos.

My colleague Le Zhengyuan, however, saw this exhibit twice. Once while it was on view in NY at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt (and called “Set in Style”) and then again when it moved to MOCA Shanghai (and changed its name to “Timeless Beauty”). [Naturally, while it was on view in Tokyo it had yet a different name, “Spirit of Beauty.”]

Le shared the photos of MOCA Shanghai’s exhibit below:

She said, “they didn’t move the entire exhibit set to Shanghai, but there were some new displays, like the octopus-like [structure]. The space is very dark…and the sparkling bubble glass displays make it look like an underwater world!” She thought both versions were fantastic.

The designers, Patrick Jouin, explain: “for this exhibition we wanted the visitors to lose all sense of time, to open a door onto an imaginary world. The nature theme, which is a major source of inspiration for Van Cleef & Arpels, has also influenced the scenography. The pieces in the exhibition are presented in gigantic glass drops. In order to create a sensual and mysterious installation, we have used various types of illusions.”

The photos below are from the Cooper-Hewitt exhibit, and were taken by Matt Flynn, © Smithsonian Institution:

While both exhibit versions used the bubble glass cases, the Cooper-Hewitt’s version seemed more traditional than MOCA Shanghai’s. Less octopus-structure and more tables and wall vitrines. I’d hazard a guess that the primary reason is U.S. ADA requirements. I’m curious what other challenges the designers had to address as they designed an exhibit for travel to four different countries (Japan, the U.S., Shanghai, and France).

In all its iterations, this is a gorgeous exhibition. If you can, definitely see it.

(Also check out this promo video; it has some nice views of the Tokyo exhibit.)

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