The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Presents the Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita–1990, at the de Young Museum

I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.”
Andy Warhol

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is pleased to announce The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond 1950–1990, an exhibition of approximately 150 pieces created by the renowned Italian jeweler over four decades. This exclusive exhibition will highlight jewelry that defined a pivotal period in Italian design, and will include many pieces from the personal collection of Elizabeth Taylor. The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990 will be on display at the de Young Museum (de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118 deyoungmuseum.org, 415-750-3600) from September 21, 2013 through February 17, 2014.

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The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990 continues the Fine Arts Museums’ strong track record of exhibitions highlighting the work of decisive figures and movements in the world of fashion and design including: Cartier in America, Balenciaga and Spain, Yves Saint Laurent and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, among others. Works in the exhibition also include those from the 1970s and 80s, a particularly innovative period for the jeweler and one influenced by Pop Art and other contemporary trends.

 

Bulgari. Necklace, 1961 – Platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Necklace, 1961 – Platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

 

Bulgari "bib" necklace in gold with cabochon emeralds, amethysts, turquoise and diamonds, ca 1965.  (PRNewsFoto/Bulgari)

Bulgari “bib” necklace in gold with cabochon emeralds, amethysts, turquoise and diamonds, ca 1965. (PRNewsFoto/Bulgari)

 

Bulgari. Sautoir, 1969 – Platinum with sapphires and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Sautoir, 1969 – Platinum with sapphires and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

 

Bulgari’s successful cultivation of prominent patrons and movie stars like Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and perhaps most notably, Elizabeth Taylor, has long been a key aspect of the jeweler’s reputation. To help explore the cultural context in which these objects were made, the exhibition will include innovative uses of sketches, photographs, and other archival materials that help to reveal a fascinating intersection of celebrity, design, and fine craftsmanship.

Today part of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey LVMH Group, Bulgari was founded in Rome in 1884 as a jewelry shop and progressively imposed itself with its magnificent jewelry creations, emblems of Italian excellence. Bulgari notably began to create its own trademark in jewelry in the 1960s by embracing boldly-colored combinations of gemstones, use of heavy gold, and forms derived from Greco-Roman classicism, the Italian Renaissance, and the 19th-century Roman school of goldsmiths. The company helped to develop a look that would come to be known as the “Italian school” of jewelry design. Pieces in the exhibition display the jeweler’s eclectic creativity and invention during this period.

Bulgari. ‘Melone’ evening bag, ca. 1972 – Gold and burnished steel with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Melone’ evening bag, ca. 1972 – Gold and burnished steel with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Parentesi’ parure, ca. 1982 – Gold with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Parentesi’ parure, ca. 1982 – Gold with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

International success made the Company evolve into its current dimension as a global and diversified player in the luxury market, with a store network in the most exclusive shopping areas worldwide and a portfolio of products and services ranging from jewels and watches to accessories, perfumes and hotels.

The hard-edged designs of the 1970s included a whole range based on the Stars-and-Stripes motif, while in the 1980s the Parentesi collection had a smoother, modular, almost architectural presence; both show how the jeweler could lead in new directions with a strong sense of design,” said Martin Chapman, curator in charge of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Bulgari. ‘Playing Card’ brooch, ca. 1975 – Gold with mother-of-pearl, coral, onyx and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Playing Card’ brooch, ca. 1975 – Gold with mother-of-pearl, coral, onyx and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Playing Card’ sautoir, 1972 – Gold with coral, mother-of-pearl, onyx and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Playing Card’ sautoir, 1972 – Gold with coral, mother-of-pearl, onyx and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Tubogas’ choker, 1974 – Two-color gold with Greek silver coins. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. ‘Tubogas’ choker, 1974 – Two-color gold with Greek silver coins. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Naturally, the exhibit comes with a book, The Art Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond, 1950-1990 by Amanda Triossi and Martin Chapman. This volume focuses on the 1950s through the 1980s – a period of eclectic creativity that helped to establish the signature Bulgari look and its status in the world of celebrity and high society. Along with a history of the jeweler, the book features approximately 150 pieces from this pivotal period. High-quality photographs of the objects share the spotlight with sketches, photographs and vintage advertisements from the Bulgari archives, as well as images of the celebrities who adorned themselves with these opulent works, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren. An introduction by Chapman examines Bulgari in an American context, focusing on its famous clients and social history. An essay by Triossi provides a deeper look at Bulgari – its founding, history, designers, and innovations. Section introductions for the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s illuminate the trends in jewellery design for each decade, in addition to a chapter dedicated to the legendary Elizabeth Taylor Collection.

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The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco. The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

Bulgari. Table clock, 1968 – Gold and platinum with lapis lazuli, rubies and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Table clock, 1968 – Gold and platinum with lapis lazuli, rubies and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Sautoir, ca. 1973 – Three-color gold with British silver coins and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Sautoir, ca. 1973 – Three-color gold with British silver coins and diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Bracelets, 1955 and 1959 – Platinum with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

Bulgari. Bracelets, 1955 and 1959 – Platinum with diamonds. Courtesy of de Young Museum

The de Young Museum originated as the Fine Arts Building, which was constructed in Golden Gate Park for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894. The chair of the exposition organizing committee was Michael H. de Young, co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle. The Fine Arts Building was designed in a pseudo–Egyptian Revival style and decoratively adorned with images of Hathor, the cow goddess. Following the exposition, the building was designated as a museum for the people of San Francisco. Over the years, the de Young has grown from an attraction originally designed to temporarily house an eclectic collection of exotic oddities and curiosities to the foremost museum in the western United States concentrating on American art, international textile arts and costumes, and art of the ancient Americas, Oceania and Africa.

The new Memorial Museum was a success from its opening on March 24, 1895. No admission was charged, and most of what was on display had been acquired from the exhibits at the exposition. Eleven years after the museum opened, the great earthquake of 1906 caused significant damage to the Midwinter Fair building, forcing a year-and-a-half closure for repairs.

Collier et boucles d'oreilles pendantes en platine avec saphirs et diamants. Créations 1955. Bulgari Heritage Collection Sophia Loren with Maurice Chevalier wearing Bvlgari

Before long, the museum’s steady development called for a new space to better serve its growing audiences. Michael de Young responded by planning the building that would serve as the core of the de Young Museum facility through the 20th century. Louis Christian Mulgardt, the coordinator for architecture for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, designed the Spanish-Plateresque-style building. It was completed in 1919 and formally transferred by de Young to the city’s park commissioners. In 1921, de Young added a central section, together with the tower that would become the museum’s signature feature, and the museum began to assume the basic configuration that it retained until 2001. Michael de Young’s great efforts were honored with the changing of the museum’s name to the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Yet another addition, a west wing, was completed in 1925, the year de Young died. Just four years later, the original Egyptian-style building was declared unsafe and demolished. By the end of the 1940s, the elaborate cast concrete ornamentation of the original de Young was determined to be a hazard and removed because the salt air from the Pacific had rusted the supporting steel.

In the mid-1960s, following Avery Brundage’s bequest of his magnificent Asian art collection, the Brundage wing was constructed, thereafter altering the museum’s orientation toward the Japanese Tea Garden, another remnant of the 1894 Midwinter Fair. In 1994 city voters overwhelmingly supported a bond measure to renovate the former San Francisco Main Library as the new home of the Asian Art Museum. Architect Gae Aulenti—widely recognized for adapting historic structures into museum spaces—was chosen as the design architect for the new facility. The Asian art collection remained open to the public at the de Young until October 2001, when it closed in preparation for the move. In November 2003 it re-opened its doors to the public at its new Civic Center location as an independent museum.

In 1989 the de Young suffered significant structural damage as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake. The Fine Arts Museums’ board of trustees completed a project that braced the museum as a temporary measure until a long-term solution could be implemented. For the next several years, the board actively sought solutions to the de Young’s structural jeopardy and solicited feedback from throughout the community, conducting numerous visitor surveys and public workshops.

With extensive public input, the board initiated a process to plan and build a privately financed institution as a philanthropic gift to the city, in the tradition of M. H. de Young. An open architectural selection process took place from 1998 to 1999. The board endorsed a museum concept plan in October 1999, and a successful multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign was initiated under the leadership of board president Diane B. Wilsey.

The resulting design by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron weaves the museum into the natural environment of the park. It also provides open and light-filled spaces that facilitate and enhance the art-viewing experience. Historic elements from the former de Young, such as the sphinxes, the original palm trees, and the Pool of Enchantment, have been retained or reconstructed at the new museum. The former de Young Museum structure closed to the public on December 31, 2000. The new de Young opened on October 15, 2005.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Museum Hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm; Friday (March 29–November 29, 2013) 9:30 am–8:45 pm and Closed Mondays (except November 11, December 23 and 30, 2013; January 20 and February 17, 2014
Admission: $20-$22 adults; $17-$19 seniors; $16-$18 college students with ID; $10-$12 youths 6–17. (These prices include general admission.) Members and children 5 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month. Tickets can be purchased on site and on the de Young’s website: deyoungmuseum.org. Tickets purchased online include a $1 handling charge. Group ticket reservations available by emailing groupsales@famsf.org