We Wanted to Create a Contemporary Interpretation of the Vibrant 60's and 70's. Interview with Catherine Regout. Curator of DIVA Museum

Interview  /  BehindTheScenes
Published: 03.12.2020
Catherine Regout Catherine Regout
Chenni Sheng
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Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens..
Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens.

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DIVA museum presents the exhibition The Jeweller’s Art - Revolutionary from the 1960s & 70s, showing a massive collection of jewellery work as well as fashion, music and design from that vibrant period. We invite Catherine Regout, the curator of DIVA and the exhibition, to share her curating concept and experience behind the scene.
Hi Catherine, thank you for taking this interview with us. You are the curator of DIVA museum, also the curator of the current exhibition The Jeweller’s Art - Revolutionary from the 1960s & 70s. Could you tell us about yourself and your career experience of curating?
Hi Chenni, thank you for your time and interest in our museum and the current exhibition. I have to tell you that The Jeweller’s Art. Revolutionary Jewellery from the 1960s and 1970s we made in collaboration with the Cincinnati Art Museum in Cincinnati Ohio, United States. Their curator, Cynthia Amnéus, did a lot of research on the jewellery together with Kimberly Klosterman, the collector and owner of the jewellery (and a Cincinnati resident).
At DIVA we wanted to make sure the exhibition would be a real experience and a contemporary interpretation of these wonderful and vibrant decades. Next to the jewellery from Kimberly, we added jewellery of DIVA’s own collection that represents a Belgian context and we added fashion, design, music and movies from the 60s and 70s. On top of that we installed the light installation Transito (by Children of the Light and Space Encounters), which can be interpreted as a transition from the wild sixties, full of colour and asymmetric baroque forms, to the minimalist and futuristic seventies. The Space Age is brought to life in this installation and strolling through the pillars is like finding yourself in a psychedelic temple of light. 

Light installation: Transito. Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens.

Could you introduce us more about the collection on display in this exhibition?
Kimberly Klosterman started her collection of the 1960s and 1970s jewellery about thirty years ago. Since then she started buying jewellery by Andrew Grima, Gilbert Albert, Arthur King, Jean Vendome amongst others, and Afro Basaldella along with jewels by Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, and other major houses. Currently, her collection of the 1960s and 1970s jewellery consists of more than a hundred pieces and represents the work of international and independent jewellery designers and jewellery houses.
The jewellery designers and makers in those vibrant times were uncompromising in their vision. They took jewellery to a whole new artistic level, paralleling the radical changes in society which ran through those decades. Many of the designers in Kimberly’s collection regarded themselves as artists and their jewellery as an art form. They created abstract jewellery using gold with organic and asymmetrical forms, often inspired by nature or by social trends and developments in science. As well as gold, they used unconventional materials like fossils and meteorites and the texture and scale of their designs were unrivalled.

What is the biggest challenge for you in the whole process of preparing this exhibition?
Oh, that’s a tough question. There are many challenges I think. My main goal is to make an exhibition that people can enjoy, get inspired and preferably also learn from it. In my opinion, one of the ways to reach that goal is to surprise people. Apart from beautiful and interesting jewellery work, as well as good exhibition texts, scenography is important. It can lift up the exhibition and turn it into a totally different experience. I think we did achieve that with The Jeweller’s Art.

Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens.

Unfortunately, DIVA museum has been closed due to the current situation of Covid-19, and the opening of the exhibition was postponed. It’s such a pity we cannot visit the exhibition presently. What is the corresponding changes or adjustments you and your team made regarding this issue?
Due to the Covid-19 measures, we had to adapt and we decided to make a virtual exhibition. It is not the same as when you visit the museum in real life, but it gives you an idea about the look and the feel. The positive thing is that anyone everywhere in the world can visit our exhibition. This worked out well during the online panel about the Kimberly Klosterman collection during New York City Jewellery Week too.

Luckily the museum is open again from the 5th of December. But if you can’t travel to Antwerp you can still have a look at the virtual exhibition we made on the website of DIVA Museum.

The whole collection on display with more than 100 items has a wide range of jewellery pieces from different artists and brands, also from different materials and techniques. Could you explain to us your idea about how you design the whole display of them in the museum space?
We made mood boards per room. What story do we want to tell? What is the red thread and how can we make the display attractive, yet logical and informative? I decided to order the jewellery by themes rather than makers or strict chronologically.

In the first room you enter, there are the wild, colourful, quirky, asymmetrical jewellery pieces of the 1960s. Jewellery designers like Andrew Grima, Gilbert Albert, Barbara Anton and Arthur King represent jewellery that was made to make a statement. The jewellery is big, colourful, asymmetric and inspired by nature. The themes of this room are pearls, wild gold, nature, astrology and body sculpture.

Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens.

The second room is designed to put the jewellery in context. 4 dia projectors show you slides of newspaper articles (assassination of Kennedy, the first man on the moon, etc), fashion magazines (Twiggy, Paco Rabanne, etc), and even films and recipes of that time. You also can admire Paco Rabanne dresses worn by mannequins sitting on typical 60s design chairs by Eero Aarino and Geoffrey D. Harcourt.

The third room is all about space age. Here you will enter the Transito light installation and you can admire Space Age jewellery – either made by materials from outer space or very familiar space shapes like ufos stars, moon landscapes etc. This room is also the transition from the 1960s quirky and asymmetrical jewellery to the more geometric and slick futuristic jewellery of the 1970s.

The last room you enter the white and futuristic jewellery made in the 1970s. Next to a silver Paco Rabanne dress that sparkles like disco lights, you will find boutique jewellery that was made by the big jewellery houses for a younger and more modern audience. Next to dresses designed by Belgian sculptor Félix Roulin (including breastplates made of bronze) you will discover jewellery that was made by artists like
César Baldaccini, Afro Basaldella and Franco Cannilla. Gerda Flöckinger, the ‘First Lady of British Jewellery’, has her own showcase. The last theme is about jewellery that was inspired by ancient cultures.

Ilias Lalaounis (1920-2013), Greece, Necklace, 1970s, gold, rock crystal, Courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Collection of Kimberly Klosterman, Photography by Tony Walsh.

Exhibition: The Jeweller’s Art, DIVA Antwerp. Photo by Frederik Beyens.

For some of our readers who have to visit the exhibition through the screen at home, do you have any suggestions for them to get a good understanding of the exhibition? Could you recommend us some jewellery pieces or collections which you think are distinctive in this exhibition that we cannot miss?
If you would like to get a good understanding of the exhibition, I recommend to read the catalogue Simply Brilliant: Artist-Jewelers of the 1960s and 1970s or have a look at our exhibition guide which you can download for free. An interview with Kimberly and other fun extras you can find in our magazine. It is the first time we made an extra magazine with the exhibition and I like the idea. I am very happy with the design – it is truly is like a time capsule. Jurgen Flick,, did a great job.
What not to miss? I think the variety of designers as well as the materials and techniques they used. For me, it was very interesting to learn more about high jewellery of this time period. And that jewellery designers that worked with precious materials like gold, diamonds and other gemstones also adapted to a more free and artistic kind of jewellery. As I am Dutch and worked for Ruudt Peters, I was used to a very different kind of jewellery from the 1960s and 1970s: made from non-precious materials like stovepipe, aluminium and rubber.
Gilbert Albert is a good example. He was a great designer and very well-known back in the 1960s and 1970s, but not many people have heard from him today. He won many prestigious prizes and was innovative and known for his use of unconventional materials. He was inspired by natural forms and transformed remarkable materials such as fossils and meteorites into unique organic forms, combining them effortlessly with gold and precious gems.

Gilbert Albert (1930-2019), Switzerland, bracelet/brooch, 1960s, gold, pearl, diamond, ammonite fossil, Courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Collection of Kimberly Klosterman, Photography by Tony Walsh.

Barbara Anton, an American designer who made beautiful jewellery and won many prizes. Not much is written about her or her designs, but if you look at how the pearl necklace is made – wonderful. Compared to a traditional pearl necklace from the fifties, this is a sumptuous design. Anton used irregularly shaped pearls in a variety of naturally occurring pastel shades, which are held together by seaweed-like tendrils of wild gold. The back is just as beautifully crafted as the front and the necklace is hinged and flexible so that it rests comfortably on the neck. Unsurprisingly, in 1966 Anton won first prize for the outstanding design of this necklace in the Cultured Pearl Associations of America and Japan competition.

Barbara Anton (1926-2007), United States, Potpourri of Pearls Necklace, circa 1968, gold, pearl, diamond, Courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Collection of Kimberly Klosterman, Photography by Tony Walsh.

This exhibition is organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio and produced by DIVA, museum for diamond, jewellery and silver, Antwerp, Belgium.
Scenography: Space Encounters.

For more information about the exhibition, please click here.

About the Interviewee

Catherine Regout (Amsterdam, 1989) received her B.A. and M.A. in art history, with a specialization in design and decorative arts at Leiden University in The Netherlands. She started her career at MUDE, museu do design e da moda in Lisbon, Portugal. After this museum closed for restoration, she returned to the Netherlands as a freelance curator and worked for different museums. Catherine worked close together with Dutch Jewellery designer Ruudt Peters on his retrospective exhibition BRON. The exhibition travelled through Europe and China and has an accompanying catalogue. In September 2019 Catherine started as curator of DIVA in Antwerp. 

About the author

Chenni Sheng is a jewellery designer and maker from China. She was trained in silversmith during her BA course of Fashion Accessory Design at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University. After graduating in 2017, she continued to study jewellery design and achieve MFA degree at Manchester School of Art in the UK. Now Chenni works in Klimt02 for website content and social media managing after six-month internship.