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In the 1920s, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced jewel-covered pins in the shapes of feathers and birds. Since then, the jewelry maker has continued to look to birds and other animals for inspiration, and has also pursued a fascination with butterflies, dragonflies, and more. Today, the positive symbolism of winged creatures and other fauna lives on in Van Cleef & Arpels’s high jewelry collection“L’Arche de Noé” (Noah’s Ark).
The jewelry house’s CEO, Nicolas Bos, dream up more than 60 pairs of striking clips after seeing a 1613 painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. “I will never forget the shock I felt as I stood gazing at the painting The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, and the journey it embarked me on at once,” said Bos.
To celebrate the special collection, Van Cleef & Arpels will take over Cedar Lake in New York with an immersive installation (open to the public November 3–19), transformed under the guidance of The Watermill Center’s Robert Wilson. The choice to entrust Wilson with the vision of “L’Arche de Noé” was solidified when Bos realized Wilson was “truly passionate about the worlds of fantasy and childhood,” after he visited Wilson’s staging of Fairy Tales by Alexander Pushkin in Moscow. “I also witnessed his absolute and legendary stagecraft precision—bordering on obsession. I knew he was particularly fond of literature, and tales in particular, so I reached out to him for his outstanding artistic expertise and talent in creating fantastic realms,” Bos added.
For the exhibition, Wilson imagined the space as a black box lined with jewel cases. To enhance the immersive experience, a video projection captures the feeling of the sea; music by Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel, evokes mystery; and flashing lights mimic lightning during a storm.
“This scenography showcases our collection in subdued and mysterious tones that pertain to an artistic realm attuned to both Robert Wilson’s and our vision,” added Bos. “Robert Wilson reinterprets one of our culture’s great myths.”
Featuring more than 40 animal pairs of clips, “L’Arche de Noé” is Wilson’s first time creating a set design for fine jewels. “I revel in exploring new territories to challenge my creativity,” he said. “I would rather describe it as a journey along sensory sceneries, as the abstract and fancy-free immersion into a fairytale. These sensory landscapes are also musical, serene and poetic, where tales are redolent of childhood lullabies. The whole scenography centers around the same quest. Inspiration is everywhere, in a light beam, a vision, a melody, a painting, an encounter, a sky, a word, a laughter, a tear.”