Interview: Van Cleef's Director Of Exhibitions On Creating Treasures & Legends

BY Milli Midwood / Oct 16 2019 / 13:24 PM

BAZAAR caught up with Lise Macdonald, Van Cleef's Director Patrimony and Exhibitions, to talk about Van Cleef & Arpel's enduring appeal

Interview: Van Cleef's Director Of Exhibitions On Creating Treasures & Legends

Last week, Van Cleef & Arpels opened the doors to their its first heritage exhibition in the Middle East, Treasures & Legends. The never-before-seen exhibition, which is being held in the fine jewellery brand's Dubai Opera boutique, showcases exclusive pieces that span more than a century of creations.

Running from October 10 to 30, the display boats pieces once belonging to Queen Nazli and Princess Faiza of Egypt, plus jewellery from Maharani of Baroda, ­Duchess of Windsor, Princess Lilian of Belgium and Princess Grace of Monaco.

BAZAAR caught up with Lise Macdonald, Director Patrimony and Exhibitions, to talk about the enduring appeal of Van Cleef & Arpels, which remains at the top of its game hundreds of years on...

Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: Tell us about the conception of Treasures & Legends... 

Lise Macdonald: We created the exhibition as a code of dialogue in collaboration with Vincent Meylan, who is an author, art historian, and very old friend of Van Cleef. & Arpels. The aim of the exhibition is to provide our fans and customers with a story through the angle of royals and icons. The collection spans from the 1920s, Art Deco, until the '70s. There are several themes addressed that are dear to the maison, including nature, couture, but also exoticism and the influences of India and China as well. A big part also comes from Egypt and Iran. 

Lise Macdonald

Image Supplied

HBA: Tell us about the pieces from Egypt and Iran? 

LM: They are masterpieces. First you have the fantastic diamond necklace of Queen Nazli, that she wore for the wedding of her daughter Fawzia to the future Shah of Iran in 1939. It´s a diamond necklace of over 637 diamonds, more than 200 carats. It´s a very beautiful composition of Art Deco style, but also recalling the traditional Egyptian torques necklaces. Another key piece is the Peony clip from 1937. It belonged to Princess Faiza and is made of rubies, diamonds and gold. 

HBA: How did you acquire these piece?

LM: The stories are actually quite remarkable. The Peony brooch used to belong to the princess, and subsequently went on the market after she died. After many years, we were able to acquire it again. The brooch actually comes as a set, but we are still looking for the other one. 

As for Queen Nazli's necklace, well, it came back to us thanks to Vincent's book that came out in 2013. A reader saw a picture of the piece and unknowingly came forward saying it used to belong to his mother. And that's how the necklace came back to us! 

HBA: How do you think a retrospective exhibition showcases the hallmarks and modern signatures of the Van Cleef brand? 

LM: The diversity of inspirations, of thematics, the excellence in craftmanship and visual presence has remained the same over all these years. It also tells the story of how Van Cleef has been influenced by, let´s say, far away countries, and how we´ve reintegrated those influences and expressed them in our own language in pieces today. 

HBA: You sourced these pieces from all over the world - how long did it take to put the exhibition together? 

LM: To physically create the exhibition, it took a few months, but we've been sourcing these pieces for decades, so it depends how look at it. 

HBA: What were the best and most challenging things about creating this exhibition? 

LM: The best was the team work and working with all different people in Van Cleef. The most challenging was to make sure everyone enjoys it! 


HBA: What do you hope people take away from Treasures & Legends? 

LM: I want it to be an educational and emotive experience. I think education and emotion are very linked. It’s very difficult to learn without any kind of emotion. It's good to have a strong reaction to something; that's what literature and art are all about. We've also added in some witty pieces, because Van Cleef has always has a strong sense of humour. There's a figure of an Indian Rajah, referring to the Rajah Clip from 1947. We added him in because he adds a lot of joy to the exhibition.