Tchotchkes

01.22.14

Liberace Would Have Balked

At the Met, jewels by JAR may be tacky junk, but they tell us about ourselves.

OK, so I’m on the record – this morning, on Marketplace – as hating the jewelry of the Parisian gemster known as JAR (a.k.a Joel A. Rosenthal). But that doesn’t mean that this tacky butterfly brooch, from 1994, isn’t deeply interesting and informative as a shiny little fragment of visual culture – and so worthy of a Daily Pic.

As I argued on the radio, the solo show of JAR tchotchkes now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York helps us keep in mind how entirely our culture has been taken over by the values of the ultra-rich. JAR’s gewgaws have nothing to do with serious artistic thought, such as other contemporary jewelers are engaging with; JAR makes empty-headed twinkly stuff that any little girl would want for her princess costume. But as things stand today, if you can get the price tag on such objects up high enough, they begin to command respect. In the 21st century, money doesn’t talk, it outshouts everything else. 

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