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Modern Jewelry, 1964-1984: The Helen Williams Drutt Collection

Start Date 01 November 1986
End Date 01 February 1987
Venue Philadelphia Museum of Art
Location Philadelphia, USA
Curator Philadelphia Museum of Art
Designer Darrel Sewell

Modern Jewelry 1964-84: The Helen Williams Drutt Collection, an exhibition of more than 150 pieces by 75 artists from the United States, Europe, and Japan, will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from November 1, 1986 to February 1, 1987. Contemporary work in jewelry, like other craft arts, has enjoyed a particularly innovative period over the past 25 years. This exhibition traces the creative evolution of several key figures in the field–including Stanley Lechtzin, Olaf Skoogfors, William Harper, Toni Gossler-Snyder, Miye Matsukata, Fritz Meierhoffer, Claus Bury, Richard Reinhardt, Breon O’Casey, and Otto Kunzli–and surveys the remarkable vitality of modern jewelry making. 

The exhibition, to be installed in the decorative arts gallery on the second floor, was drawn from the private collection of Helen Williams Drutt, a noted Philadelphia collector, historian, teacher, and the founder-director of a respected crafts gallery. The pieces were collected for their individuality and technical excellence, and reveal the variety of approach to precious metals, gems, ivory, epoxy, acrylic, and other materials which have been etched, carved, cast, twisted, polished, painted, lacquered, or gilded and assembled into distinctive wearable art works. Stylistic approaches range from the pictorial to the organic to machine concepts. 

Ms. Drutt recently described the evolution of her jewelry collection. “Initially, my reason for owning jewelry was in order to promote my newly born interest in modern crafts,” she said. “It was logical that no one could carry a vessel or chair into a meeting. Wearing a brooch was no different from being a living billboard. Jewelry acted as a catalyst for questions and queries from museum directors, curators, acquaintances, students, and strangers. I came into contact with significant works which had received little public response in terms of collecting, and I began to acquire them in order to ‘hold’ history. Modern Jewelry 1964-84, as a collection, visually documents the dialogue that centered in Philadelphia during the last two decades.” 


Darrel Sewell 


The Château Dufresne, Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Philadelphia Museum of Art