The second selling exhibition dedicated to black jewellery designers organised by Sotheby’s in collaboration with jewellery authority and writer Melanie Grant
Brilliant & Black Selling Exhibition at Sotheby’s, London Sept 22. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Last year, the jewellery industry was set abuzz when Sotheby’s announced its ground-breaking selling exhibition ‘Brilliant & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance’, showcasing the extraordinary skill, imagination and craftsmanship of black jewellery designers from the 1950s to the present day. Almost a year later, Sotheby’s has teamed up once again with celebrated jewellery writer and curator, Melanie Grant, to organise the second iteration of the acclaimed exhibition, set to take place in London this September, coinciding with Black History Month.
Entitled ‘Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment’, the new London edition is bigger in scale than the original New York show, offering more than seventy pieces from a roster of twenty-five exclusively contemporary designers. All participating artists have created one new piece in response to Grant’s overarching theme of Enlightenment, a period which represents as Grant states, “a time of growth, individualism and intellectual reason.” This theory of expansion has been realised by the appearance of seven new artists, including Gina Love, Sewit Sium, Ndidi Ekubia and Latoya Boyd (a full list of participating artists can be found below).
The Inspiration behind Brilliant and Black: The Age of Enlightenment by Melanie Grant
The firestorm of social change we experienced in 2020, that resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement and consequently Sotheby’s first-ever selling exhibition dedicated to the exemplary work of 21 jewellery artists of African descent is far from over. It still simmers, as the recent shooting of Patrick Lyoya in America demonstrates because the inequalities and injustices continue. In our small corner of the jewellery world, we sought to redress the balance by acknowledging black talent in a show that saw well-to-do women dancing with sheer delight into the exhibition space, children clutching rings in awe and men brought to tears saying they never thought they would see anything like this in their lifetime. It changed everything for all of us.
As an exhibition, I think it did two important things. It turned the pain we all felt surrounding George Floyd into a lasting artistic legacy, and it provided a global platform for black jewellers to celebrate this new renaissance of African infused design. Now, in part II and this time held in London, we celebrate a period of enlightenment. In history, after the explosion and re-birth of culture and learning driven by artists that came with The Renaissance from the 1300s onwards, there followed an Age of Enlightenment. This was a time of growth, individualism, and intellectual reason as well as the freedom to expand and explore now the Renaissance had taken place and to really settle into a new era of creativity.
So much of history repeats itself and for me this second exhibition is about our expansion from that moment of conception in New York last September. In practical terms this has involved inviting eight new artists to take part, bringing our roster to twenty-five. As we forge ahead, having showcased the talents of old masters Art Smith and Winifred Mason last time, only contemporary artists will now be featured because this show is about the future and where we go from here. It is a chance to experiment and I’ve asked each artist to create something new to them to cement this new era as barriers of all kinds come down.
The tsunami of interest we experienced in black creativity may be quieter now, but we cannot forget its lessons. There are fears that as things return to normal, our efforts to elevate black design will be eclipsed by more recent events but the work is too good and once seen never forgotten. I’ve witnessed a flurry of other exhibitions and had conversations with so many other black creatives following Brilliant & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance, that I truly believe a door has been opened. The jewels themselves act like artefacts marking our progress at this very moment in history. We won’t have a $1M ring this time but as we move from adornment closer to art, that understanding of intrinsic value seems to matter less.
We are in a period of enlightenment. A modern enlightenment exploring the depth and breadth of our talent today for all those who don’t have a voice or opportunity to do so themselves. I want to thank all the collectors who continue to support us and to Sotheby’s to whom I am eternally grateful. The best is yet to come.
Full List of Participating Artists in Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment:
- Disa Allsopp – NEW
- Latoya Boyd – NEW
- Shola Branson – NEW
- Ndidi Eubia – NEW
- Gina Love – NEW
- Pascale Marthine Tayou via Elisabetta Cipriani gallery – NEW
- Roxanne Rajcommar-Hadden – NEW
- Sewit Sium – NEW
- Melanie Eddy
- Lola Fenhirst
- Harwell Godfrey
- Sheryl Jones
- Vania Leles
- Angie Marei
- Satta Matturi
- Johnny Nelson
- Castro NYC
- Jariet Oloye-Oduto
- Jacqueline Rabun
- Catherine Sarr
- Maggi Simpkins
- Karen Smith
- Ten Thousand Things
- Lorraine West
- Thelma West
Terry Castro of Castro NYC sadly passed away on 18th July 22 and we are gratefully exhibiting his work, courtesy
of his family.
The exhibition will be on view at Sotheby’s New Bond Street Galleries from the 22nd of September and running during Black History Month. All ‘Brilliant & Black’ pieces exhibited will be available for purchase, either in person, or directly through Sotheby’s Buy Now marketplace at Sothebys.com.