Visiting Van Cleef & Arpels’ Florae exhibition

September 2021


Visiting Van Cleef & Arpels' Florae exhibition

Van Cleef & Arpels gave photographer Mika Ninagawa carte blanche to create an exhibition celebrating flowers, with her work presented alongside the Maison’s floral creations. Within an immersive decor designed by architect Tsuyoshi Tane, over a hundred pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels’ patrimony collection and contemporary jewels commune with the Japanese artist’s brightly colored photographs. On display from September 10 to November 14, 2021 at Hôtel d’Évreux, on Place Vendôme in Paris, Florae takes viewers on a dreamlike stroll through an imaginary garden.

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ince its founding in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels has drawn from nature as an infinite source of inspiration. Flora imparts vitality and poetry into its creations, with precious materials mirroring the endless metamorphoses of the natural world. Mika Ninagawa, a Japanese photographer known for her work on color, shares the Maison’s fascination for flowers, ever striving to capture their beauty and singularity. Dahlias, roses and cherry blossoms come to life in her photographs, their every nuance fervently manifest. For the Florae exhibition, more than a hundred of the Maison’s pieces – jewels from the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection and contemporary creations – commune with the artist’s works to create a luxuriant setting. Photographed by Mika, flowers unfurl their dazzling corollas on glass walls, while the Maison’s floral creations delicately bloom within nearly invisible showcases.

The exhibition is structured in three parts, each reflecting a vision of flowers shared by Mika Ninagawa and the Maison. The first section is dedicated to a naturalist aesthetic that underscores representations prompted by reality. Emphasis is placed on natural colors and the volume of corollas, as well as the textures and particular features of petals both in the photographs and on jewelry pieces such as the 1937 Mystery Set Peony clip and the Myosotis watch.

The second part focuses on bouquets, exalting the precious compositions that adorn many Van Cleef & Arpels creations from the 1930s and 1940s, together with profuse flowerbeds like the flourishing rosebushes the photographer so admires.

Finally, the last space presents a stylized vision of flora, with realistic representations of nature giving way to graphic lines, striking blends of color and a sense of motion. The influence of other artistic worlds, including couture for the Silhouette clips, shines through, fostering a new repertoire of profiles. From one room to the next, links emerge among the different creations: the hues of the gemstones resonate with the photographer’s multicolor compositions to celebrate the ever-evolving richness of the floral universe.

To choreograph this artistic dialogue between jewelry and photography, Mika Ninagawa and Van Cleef & Arpels called on architect Tsuyoshi Tane, founder of ATTA – Atelier Tsuyoshi Tane Architects in Paris. For Florae, he imagined an immersive set design grounded in plays on light and mirrors. Two main concepts intertwine at the heart of this scenography: the kaleidoscope, with its infinite chromatic effects, and the maze, inviting visitors to “get lost” in this dreamlike space. The itinerary comes together thanks to reflective glass walls that, when illuminated, display Mika Ninagawa’s photographs. The Maison’s creations shine within subtle showcases specially designed to blend into their surroundings, seeming to float in this magnificent garden.

Visitors’ perception of the venue undergoes a transformation during the exhibition, sparking a veritable sensory experience. The shapes, details and nuances of flora are infinitely reflected in this fantastical labyrinth, reminiscent of certain passages in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland or Michael Ende’s novel Momo, in which flowers symbolize time for living.

Captivated by the fleeting beauty of flora, the Maison has celebrated the natural world since its founding. Over the years, it has given life to a profusion of jewelry interpretations that are highlighted today alongside photographs by Mika Ninagawa. Spanning nearly a century, from the 1920s to the 2000s, more than a hundred pieces from the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection combined with contemporary creations offer a panorama of flowers as seen by the Maison, reflecting three themes: naturalist aesthetics, bouquets and stylized aesthetics.

Like a collector composing an herbarium, Van Cleef & Arpels has chosen a figurative approach to represent varied floral and plant species. Thanks to its exceptional savoir-faire, the Maison has replicated the silhouette and movement of flowers using the most precious materials. Expertise in stone cutting and polishing such as rubies and carnelian make it possible to evoke the silky texture of peonies or the rounded grace of a Christmas rose. By their precious and eloquent nature, Van Cleef & Arpels’ naturalistic flowers are also symbols of love and affection.