Design & Decoration S04 ep14 : Didier Haspeslagh, Haspeslagh Art & Jewels, [London]

Interview with Didier Haspeslagh

Didier Haspeslagh and Martine Newby Haspeslagh launched the gallery in 2006. It specializes in artist's jewels by post-war painters and sculptors and silver and gold wares by leading 20th century designers and architects. Since 2006 Didier Ltd has specialized in jewels designed by leading Modern Masters, painters and sculptors who are recognized internationally for their art, while the fact that they also created jewels often comes as a surprise. These jewels can be very intimtate expressions of their art, made either as unique pieces, often as personal gifts for family and friends, or produced in small limited editions. They are regarded by their creators as valid expressions of their art, small sculptures that were designed to be worn. Currently the gallery has over 200 jewels by over 100 different artists that date primarily from the 1940s to 1980s. With this historical perspective, the gallery is uniquely placed to acquire only the finest examples and does not deal in re-issues or pieces produced by artists' estates. After being neglected for fifty years this overlooked expression of the artists’ oeuvre is now regaining international recognition..


Didier Antiques is a husband and wife company, that was founded very recently. 15:48

I was already a jewelry dealer, dealing in jewelry of an artistic nature, so we're not interested in
diamonds and gem stones or gold, we're more interested in the content and the design that an
artist has put into it. 16:09

It's not a new thing. Hundreds of years ago people like Everton Jones already designed jewelry
and with that in the past. But since 1945, high international art, virtually every artist has
produced jewelry somewhere along the line and that's quite a surprise to most people. We've all
heard of Picasso, but have people heard that he did jewelry, not really. Dali was very
commercial on all levels, we may have heard of his jewelry, but then, other people, you've
never heard of as jewelry makers. Pomadora brothers, who Italian sculptors seen it by
excellence, were jewelers, before they became sculptors. They came at it through jewelry.
Harry Batoya, who is an American sculptor was a teacher of jewelry at Cranbrook Academy
during the war, when materials were scarce and he was not allowed to be a sculptor. There was
not enough bronze for him to work with, so he did miniature sculptors in the way of jewelry. He
then went on to designer things, chair, who made him wealthy enough to retire. 17:15

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Most artists have a need to do jewelry somehow, usually because they have girlfriends and
wives or daughters who might deserve a present somewhere. They wouldn't necessarily go to
Tiffany's or Cartier to buy their jewelry. They'd make their own stuff and they are very much
able to do so, you know as a sculptor they already understand the material, the metal working
techniques that are needed to create a piece of jewelry that can think in three dimensions. The
painters need more help. They usually find a jeweler, they can actually work with and happy to
work with like George Bracque, who devoted his last three years of his life, on his death bed,
initially, creating jewelry, a hundred and thirty- five pieces were done in that space of time and
then they were made posthumously, according to his instructions. 18:07

My mother had a little shop setting up some paintings and one day a person walked into the
shop and said can we come and look at these paintings and we arrived in this house, having
closed since the Germans have left it in 1944, in Belgium, a place called Marikina and we
booked in there, together with the notary, the lawyer.The doors were of the person who left the
house and never returned to it and have died in Paris and then now had to dispose of this house
and the contents. A lot of it was pretty rotten, the carpets were breaking under your feet when
you were walking on them, but the paintings were all fine and on the wall still and I ended up
buying the rest of the house's contents. So there was a lot of junk but also a lot of interesting
pieces. The diamond table and six chairs were sold for the price of the whole of the contents
eventually, so all the rest is profit.19:07

I studied artistry and then I served an apprenticeship with an antique furniture store in Brussels
and then I ended up as Finishing Touch to work for Christies in London.19:27

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Christies is a wonderful international meeting place for dealers and collectors alike and the
quality of the goods is just incredible at the time and what I learnt from that place was the
contacts, who the people are, the movers and the shakers in this business. So the minute I left
Christies, I was able to put wonderful goods that I could find lying around into the hands of the
right people. 19:57

You're as strong as your customer is. If your customer says I want this and I'm prepared to pay
this, then you've got "carte blanche" to go find this stuff, that's how we make a living, because
we learn from our clients. They're busy making money elsewhere and then you're just being
paid to go and save him some time, by finding the right goods. But, yes, it's more than that; you
also require personal knowledge of what the goods should look like. You have condition issues,
authenticity issues. 20:32

We have pieces by major modern masters like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali and George
Bracque and they all made jewelry at one time or another and other people from America like
Alexander Calder and Bertoya, Clare Fulton-Stein, very often made by themselves or in the
case of Picasso and Dali with the help of others. They are first editions, done in very small
numbers, or unique pieces in some cases, unknown, unpublished. 21:08

Henry Dunay Jewellery

Very recently, we made a couple of discoveries in the Elizabeth Taylor's sale and Christies
auctioned off all her jewels and we were looking through the online version of their catalogue
and I suddenly recognized a piece of jewelry, I said, I know what was this, but it was a very bad
photograph and the description was absolutely appalling, it was just, it said gold bracelet, a
hundred and five grams. It didn't tell me what karat it was, it didn't tell me anything, but I
recognized the shape of it from a photograph that I had seen a few years earlier in the archives
of a goldsmith's hall in London, where I had been allowed to make a few sketches of these
photographs which were the entries for the 1961 jewelry exhibition, to kick start the British
jewelry industry. But the actual piece haven't made it to the exhibition because Elizabeth
Taylor,somehow acquired it before it hit the exhibition and then it disappears out of sight, for
fifty years pretty much and just recently it was rediscovered by us at the sale, and it's for sale
here right now.22:16

Henry Dunay Jewellery

It was made by a British sculptor called Michael Elton and he did it with the help of a jeweler
called John Donald, this braces two acrobats jumping around, which is,a subject that was
interesting even at the time. We don't know in fact how Elizabeth knew Michel Elton, but
certainly, she was in London for a party there in 1961, which when his bracelet was created, that
the artist was in touch with the script writer's wife, they were friends and eventually they
married later on,so there is a connection there somehow but not sure exactly how. Sometimes
Elizabeth has given these pieces as presents so we don't know exactly what happened, did she
bought it or was given it. That's one of three pieces I ended up buying at the sale, there's another
two, also with interesting stories attached to them. 23:09

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Didier Haspeslagh, Haspeslagh Art & Jewls, London