Fausto Melotti's Dazzling Jewelry Exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zurich

January 15, 2024

Art Collection + Fairs

In a dazzling display that opened its doors on December 13, 2023, at Hauser & Wirth Zurich on Bahnhofstrasse, 'Fausto Melotti: Jewelry' presents a comprehensive survey of the renowned Italian artist's extraordinary jewelry creations. Organized in collaboration with the Melotti Foundation, the exhibition showcases meticulously crafted pieces from the 1960s, '70s, and early '80s, featuring an exquisite array of gold, silver, and brass jewelry alongside a carefully selected collection of sculptures in corresponding materials.

 

Fausto Melotti, celebrated for his versatile contributions to mid-century European Modernism as an artist, sculptor, and poet, emerges as a master of oscillation between abstraction and figuration. The exhibition unravels the intricacies of Melotti's artistic language, deeply rooted in Renaissance principles of harmony, order, geometry, and musical structure, as mirrored in his captivating foray into jewelry making.

The journey into Melotti's jewelry craftsmanship commences with a glance at his earliest pieces – necklaces in glazed ceramic or terracotta from the 1940s, crafted with love for his wife. Transitioning into the late '50s, Melotti explores the malleability of brass and gold, crafting jewelry that mirrors the slender lines of his contemporary sculptures. These pieces, adorned with curved and spiraling note-like forms, seemingly dematerialize in space. The wearable art on display in Zurich beautifully transforms the shapes of Melotti’s sculptures into elegant earrings, pendants, and brooches.

Beyond being a celebration of Melotti's work, the exhibition explores the evolution of jewelry as a medium for individual artistic expression in the 20th century. Inspired by movements like Art Nouveau and Art Déco, artists like Melotti, Pablo Picasso, and Max Ernst ventured into jewelry making, challenging traditional boundaries and pioneering avant-garde design.

The post-war era witnessed a remarkable fusion of Italian artists, with luminaries like Fausto Melotti and Lucio Fontana venturing into jewelry design. Their exceptional wearable creations, reflecting artistic autonomy within established conventions, place them in the esteemed company of masters like Calder and Giacometti. Melotti's avant-garde spirit and commitment to creative freedom, expressed in his 1963 article 'L’incertezza,' permeate through diverse media, including sculpture, architecture, design, ceramics, and jewelry.

Trained initially in figurative art under the guidance of Symbolist sculptor Adolfo Wildt, Melotti embraced abstraction alongside Lucio Fontana in the 'Abstraction-Création' movement of the 1930s. Post-war, he returned to figuration, working intimately with small formats and ceramics. The 1950s marked a transformative period as Melotti incorporated wire into his sculptures, a technique that transcended into his jewelry making in the subsequent decades.

Melotti’s mastery extends to a rich variety of materials, from brass and silver to yellow, rose, and white gold, along with precious stones, coral, crystals, and diamonds. Early exhibited works, such as the dynamic 'Grata (Grid)' (1966) necklace and the elegantly woven 'Arabesco (Arabesque)' (1966) necklace, showcase his skillful manipulation of metal wire.

The 1970s witnessed Melotti's playful experimentation in jewelry design, with pieces like 'Arabesco II (Arabesque II)' (1971), 'Spilla (Brooch)' (1970), and 'Luna (Moon)' (1971), each a testament to his intriguing designs and artistic vision. The exhibition climaxes in the 1980s with pieces like 'Collana (Necklace)' (1978) and 'Route (Wheels)' (1984), demonstrating Melotti's organic structures and complex intertwining designs.

As part of the centenary celebrations for Italo Calvino, Melotti’s close friend, exhibitions in Siena and Rome pay homage to the artist. This extensive series of exhibitions globally recognizes Fausto Melotti's profound impact on modern art, solidifying his legacy as a visionary artist whose influence extends far beyond his lifetime. For those in Zurich, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to witness the convergence of sculpture and wearable art in the hands of a true maestro.

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