Christie’s to Hold Record-Breaking Surrealist Sale Featuring Artist-Made Jewelry

Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND - Getty Images

Photo credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND – Getty Images

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In yet another instance of surrealism’s comeback in both art and fashion, Christie’s is holding a sale of surrealist works from the collection of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs.

The collection is made up of artist-made fine jewelry by greats such as Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Claude Lalanne, and Noma Copley from the 1960s and 1970s as well as paintings, posters, and photographs of the era.

Christie’s has already broken records this week, as last night they sold Andy Warhol’s silk-screen portrait of Marilyn Monroe for $195 million (the most ever for a work by an American artist), but is set to break more, as the Jacobs’s collection is estimated to bring in over $20 million at auction, with Man Ray’s “Le Violon d’Ingres” alone estimated to sell for $5-7 million—the most ever for a single photograph at auction.

“It’s very unusual to see 77 lots that were acquired directly from the artist and have been together for such a long time,” Allegra Bettini, a surrealism and modern art specialist at the New York City auction house, told

The sale will take place on May 14, and comes as surrealism is having a moment in the creative fields. In fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli was the first to embrace the artistic movement and “think outside the box” ideology. In 1935, she famously partnered with longtime friend Salvador Dalí—the OG surrealist—on a newspaper print of her press clippings. One could say they invented the designer-artist collaboration. Now, the fashion house, under the direction of creative director Daniel Roseberry, is at it again with the bizarro-chic: Gold sunglasses with eyeballs, nose casts as earrings, and a gilded lips bracelet that is “an ode to Dalí’s fascination with lips” and the artist’s influence on the fashion house, per the brand.

The fine art world is also re-embracing surrealism, and it’s no surprise; the movement at its core was a reaction to World War I, and tends to come back around in times of doom or uncertainty (hi, COVID-19 pandemic, racism-fueled hate crimes, abortion rights disaster, global unrest). This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Modern, and the Venice Guggenheim all had surrealist exhibitions. The movement is also the theme of this year’s Venice Biennale: “The Milk of Dreams” titled after the book of the same name by Leonora Carrington, in which the British-Mexican surrealist painter and novelist described a magical world fueled by imagination.

The Jacobs, American fashion buyers, collectors, and patron of the arts, had personal relationships with the artists in their collection, something which makes the pieces that much more valuable.

“By being able to represent friends, like Noma and Man Ray, out in the world, Rosalind was able to take her collection with her, in a way, and really create this vision, this message of support and alliance for artists whom she loved and she wanted to further their careers,” Bettini says. “And also, she was an incredibly stylish woman who loved being a buyer, loved being a fashion director. So, being able to pair works of art that you could physically wear with her own outfits, that was something that she loved to do—accessorizing, but next level.”

In the last three or so years, Bettini says there has been a heightened interest in wearable art and artist-designed fine jewelry pieces, not only because of the burst of creative risks being taken in fashion today, but also because the pieces are considered works of art and therefore hold a different layer of value, in addition to just “the weight of the gold.”

Some standout jewelry pieces in the collection include a set of gold spiral earrings by Man Ray, which he made in collaboration with goldsmith-jeweler GianCarlo Montebello (of Gem Montebello), inspired by a lampshade sculpture he designed. Ray created an entire capsule collection (about a dozen pieces) of jewelry based upon earlier sculptural projects or artistic ventures of his.

There is also a necklace of his called “La Jolie,” which is a gold silhouette of his wife’s profile, adorned with a lapis lazuli stone as the eye. “La jolie” means “the beautiful” in French, but it’s also a nod to the artist’s wife, whose name was Julia.

Another piece, a gold and malachite brooch shaped like an eye, is called “The Oculist.” “The idea of the eye in surrealism is so central, because when you depict an eye, it brings about the questions of: Who’s looking? What are you looking at? And then you bring it as an object—it’s very illusory,” Bettini tells BAZAAR.

Eyes also have a big place in fashion these days—think Schiaparelli, Fendi, Comme des Garçons, Logan Hollowell, Libertine.

“There’s this idea of playfulness that surrealism brings about—the idea of changing the way that we look at things,” Bettini says. “And I think that’s something that appeals to a lot of designers today, because it’s bringing something fun, something unexpected, and in today’s fashion world, people are taking more risks with how they dress. They’re being more inventive, they’re making more statements, and surrealism is a great pair for that.”

Noma Copley is the prime example of surrealist playfulness from the ’60s and ’70s, and yet her pieces are also entirely contemporary. A piece by her in the collection is a tie necklace made out of silver—which feels like it could be paired with an Off-White outfit today—and another is a pair of shirt sleeve cuffs to be worn as chunky silver bracelets.

“Her work is very much taking everyday objects and creating them in gold and silver, and drawing attention to the mundane by putting it into a sort of higher, finer context,” Bettini says.

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