Van Cleef & Arpels, the world-renowned high jewellery Maison, is famed for its unique style and excellent craftsmanship. The company also organizes exhibitions of its heritage collection at various museums in the world. This year the event is in Kyoto.
From approximately 1,200 years ago to the beginning of the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Kyoto served as the capital of Japan. Although the city experienced various ups and downs, it gradually evolved into an elegant society centering on culture. From the start of the Heian Period in 794, the city attracted all manner of people and things, and produced a host of high-grade items related to food, clothing, and shelter. In the field of clothing, for example, lavish attire adorned with gold brocade, such as junihitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono), kosode (short-sleeved kimono), tsujigahana (a dyeing technique using vivid images of flowers), and noh play costumes were created. In addition, as there were many outstanding techniques available in the area, including everything from weaving to dyeing (as seen in the still flourishing tradition of Nishijin textiles), Kyoto was able to satisfy a variety of needs. This was made possible by the skills and spirit of seasoned craftsmen.
In this respect, Van Cleef & Arpels and Kyoto share a similar heritage. In both cases, highly skilled artisans have transmitted the mysteries of their art to successive generations, and it would be no exaggeration to say that this process is a common aspect of the human race that transcends both geographical area and historical period. This inspired the present exhibition, which focuses on the “mastery of an art.” The exhibition aims to generate a new context and forge a unique bond between high jewellery, an emblematic example of French savoir-faire, and the 1,200-year history of the traditional crafts of Japan, and serve as a testament to the spirit of cultural exchange that exists between France and Japan, and more specifically Paris and Kyoto.