BVLGARI was founded in 1884 by Sotirios Voulgaris after he relocated from Greece to Italy where he settled in Rome. Growing and changing with each generation, the company updated itself within contemporary culture contexts, being able to cleverly combine high craftmanship and goldsmithing traditions based in its Greek and Roman heritage while introducing whimsy and bold Italian design. In recent decades, Bulgari has become the choice jewelry design of many famous cultural icons.
The exhibition now on view at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park highlights 150 pieces from the Bulgari archives and private collections including those from Elizabeth Taylor’s estate.
Divided into decades, the impressive display allows the visitor to come so close to some of these famous creations, you can almost imagine wearing one. The exhibition includes a documentary video of Bulgari’s development within its long history, and an explanation of the production process from design to finished work of art. There are also interactive exhibits as well as some original design sketches.
Andy Warhol, a fan of Bulgari once proclaimed, “I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” In fact, the exhibition demonstrates how the company has changed in each decade, continuously referencing the current trends in art and culture, with many of its most iconic pieces able to hold their place in any museum collection, themselves considered works of art.
As a jewelry artist generally using non-precious materials, I am not normally attracted to “traditional” glitz of diamonds and jewelry with other precious gemstones, but I do admit to having a new found respect for Bulgari’s creations when related to art and contemporary culture.
In the 1950s, artisans from Bulgari came up with a unique and clever technical design, the en tremblant jeweled flower brooches in which the diamond settings were mounted on non-visible springs. This caused the jewels to tremble and shimmer with every slight movement caused by the wearer and exaggerating the bling factor.
In the 1960s, the company started pulling away from the traditional facet cut diamond. This decade was instead marked by the introduction and compositional mix of bright candy-colored semi-precious cabochon gemstones. The Serpenti snake collection also made its debut with enameled serpentine heads on spiraling bracelets, as well as the Tubogas chokers.
The 1970s saw references to Egyptian motifs and the addition of ancient coins. The Pop Art movement also inspired the designs of the 70s — think Jaspers Johns, Rauchenburg, and Lichtenstein — and the Stars and Stripes collection.
In the 1980s, Bulgari’s Parentesi collection — a series of brackets inspired by Roman pavement — was a popular theme, as well as jewelry and accessories with an architectural geometry.
Through February 17, 2014
General Admission: $10
Due to overwhelming demand, expect special exhibition tickets for David Hockney and The Art of Bulgari to have limited availability for on-site purchases. In order to ensure a ticket, it is strongly recommend to book in advance online, as tickets on-site will likely be unavailable. If The Art of Bulgari is sold out, David Hockney ticket holders may not be admitted.
de Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco – Golden Gate Park
Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm