“Desert Jewels” at San Francisco’s MoAD features North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection, closes January 21, 2013
Hermès, the name itself evokes refinement, the exotic and, of course EXPENSIVE beautifully-constructed luxury items. For 30 years, Xavier Guerrand Hermès, of the renowned Paris-based Hermès empire collected both stunning North African jewelry and historic late 19th- and early 20th-century photographs by some of the regionʼs most prominent photographers. MoAD (San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora) has “Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection” on display through January 21, 2013. With just two more viewing weekends left, this is a jewel of a show, worthy of a visit, particularly if you have an interest in amber, coral, and semiprecious stones adn the allure of 19th centuy North Africa. “Dessert Jewels” features 94 pieces of spectacular jewelry and 28 photographs from Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia that were collected by Guerrand-Hermès. The photos set the context for the jewelry, showing how they were worn in day to day life. After seeing the show, you might agree that those gorgeous orange signature Hermès boxes tied up in brown ribbon have their inspiration in North Africa.
North African jewelry came to the attention of Western collectors in the 19th century, the period when archaeological monuments in North Africa were being explored, visited and, in some cases, pillaged. Crafted from combinations of silver, coral, amber, coins and semi-precious stones, the jewelry collection includes wedding necklaces, hair ornaments, bracelets, earrings and fibula used to keep veils in place. These pieces represent the inventive compositions and dazzling creations of North African jewelry designers and silver workers. North African jewelry came to the attention of Western collectors in the 19th century, the period when archaeological monuments in North Africa were being explored, visited and, in some cases, pillaged.
The most important photographers of the day are represented in the exhibition, including Scotsman George Washington Wilson, the Neurdine brothers from France and the Turkish photographer Pascal Sabah. They, and others, visited the region and photographed landscapes, architecture, markets and people adorned in jewels. Many of the images were used as postcards, while others remained hidden in private collections.
Downside: the accompanying texts are enough to whet the appetite but not satisfy the curiosity. Questions abound about the jewely, the photographers and Xavier Guerrand Hermès. Still, it’s a visual feast wwell-worth a visit.
Catalog: Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection (2009) $19.95 is a full-color 95 page catalog, with contributions from art historians Tina Loughran and Cynthia Becker.
Details: “Desert Jewels: North African Jewelry and Photography from the Xavier Guerrand-Hermès Collection” closes January 21, 2013. MoAD (Museum of the African Diaspora) is located at 685 Mission Street (at Third Street), San Francisco, near SFMOMA and Moscone Center. Hours: Wednesday–Saturday: 11:00 am–6:00 pm | Sunday 12:00–5:00 pm | Monday–Tuesday: CLOSED. Admission Prices: General Admission $10; Students and Seniors $5; Members and Children 12 and under w/adult FREE.
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