Crocodile necklace in gold set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, made for María Félix. Cartier Paris, special order, 1975. Photo Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection © Cartier.
Flamingo brooch in platinum set with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and citrine, worn by the Duchess of Windsor. Cartier Paris, special order, 1940. Photo Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection © Cartier.
A dazzling blockbuster with an intellectual/historical pedigree merits a weekend getaway to the Mile High City, where the Denver Art Museum mounts “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century,” as the only worldwide venue for a look back at the epoch that defined one of the most extraordinary jewelry maisons of all time. Presented in the museum’s dramatic Daniel Libeskind addition, DAM curator Margaret Young-Sánchez culls 250-some stunners including bijoux, timepieces and objets belonging to some of the 20th century’s most fascinating titans, princes and princesses, pashas and maharajas, aviators and cinematic stars.
International exhibition designer all-star Nathalie Crinière, who installed the DAM’s tantalizing 2012 Saint Laurent retrospective, returns to oversee the galleries, which are curatorially organized around seven themes: “Aristocracy and Aspiration,” “Art Deco: New Outlook,” “Art Deco: Foreign Fascination,” “Age of Glamour,” “Icons of Style,” a special section for the gents, “Masculine View,” as well as a peek into drawing room/supper club rituals in “Art of Smoking.”
Texas audiences who recall the Ettore Sottsass-curated blockbuster that touched down in 2004 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will want to make the trip to Denver to see the DAM’s take on Cartier, which has many points of entry for the viewer — most importantly perhaps, jewelry as social document, defining a new role for women in the 20th century. At the end of the day though, side-by-side with intriguing cultural tales including the story of Louis Cartier’s creation of the modern wristwatch, the jeweler’s pioneering use of platinum during the Edwardian era and its Deco-time love affair with King Tut, the aesthetics and attitude of Cartier creations such as serene mystery clocks or riotous tutti-frutti confections possess such beauty and swagger that all we can do it gasp in wonder (on view through March 15, denverartmuseum.org, brilliantindenver.com, #DAMBrilliant).