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Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection

Ornament as Art: Avant-Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection

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When the trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, accessioned the Helen Williams Drutt Collection of contemporary jewelry in 2002, they were motivated by the belief that fine art transcends all media and academic classifications. The Drutt Collection has been described as the finest of its kind, an assemblage of more than eight hundred works of art intended to adorn the human body. The artists reside in the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australia, and their work covers a broad range of artistic styles.
Each work in the Drutt Collection is an original, individual expression that defines its unique place in the world of art. Often jewelry collections are praised merely because they mirror broad artistic movements as seen in painting and sculpture, and the jewels are considered to be miniature versions of more "serious" artworks. Not this collection: Drutt's world is its own environment, fiercely independent and aggressively one of a kind.
Because the collection is made up of originals, it blends in seamlessly with other great artworks, regardless of size, medium, or classification. Time and again, the MFAH curators have exhibited Drutt masterpieces right along with masterworks by important painters and sculptors such as Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and many others. The Drutt works hold their own with integrity and independence.
What is special about the Helen Williams Drutt Collection? Its high aesthetic quality distinguishes it from all competitors. As a connoisseur, collector, dealer, detective, patron, and visionary, Helen Drutt has a passion for the best, which has taken her to artists' homes and studios throughout the world. She has shared her home with these artists, helped them financially when necessary, and encouraged them to forge ahead. Those in Eastern Europe during decades of Communist rule, for example, worked in restricted environments and cramped spaces, and had only limited access to materials - but Helen negotiated with the Communist officials and was there for the artists upon their arrival in the United States. The collection conveys this passion: anything is possible when will and intelligence prevail.