Last week in Florence at a modern white open space in the Galleria Antonella Villanova, jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez Fendi presented her first ever exhibition. She called it, fittingly, The Delphinarium.
At just 24, and having only designed jewelry for the past five years, she’s young to be presenting a retrospective of her past 10 collections. If you didn’t know her work and talent, it might even sound audacious. But Delettrez is one of the most imaginative talents around–and the exhibition she conceived of to present her jewelry was modest–not to mention clever, inventive, and slightly creepy. With live animals, to boot.
In one part of the exhibit, Delettrez displayed her jewelry in spherical terrariums, with her broaches, cuffs and rings scattered amongst live buzzing bees, salamanders, crabs and poison dart frogs. It was impossible to tell which frogs were real and which were were jewelry–until they jumped. Franca Sozzani, who toured the exhibit with Delettrez right before I did, really enjoyed tapping the plastic of the terrarium to get the frogs to jump. In another room, an old factory machine dripping with jewelry and creepy masks slowly rotated.
We were fortunate enough to have Delettrez personally walk us through the exhibit. Here’s what she had to say about her show, where she got those exotic animals, and if she’ll ever present her work like this again.
Fashionista: What’s it like to have your work exhibited like this?
Well, it was a challenge because I decided to present just five collections–so that’s half of the work I’ve done until now. And it’s amazing–it’s the way I always wanted. To me the setting and the pieces have the same importance. The setting makes the pieces come alive. We did a selection with the curator. In the first room, I presented some pieces that I’ve never shown before.
Which ones are those?
This broach right here. The hand right there. Some pieces presented are unique pieces. They’re all made by hand and I really don’t want to have them reproduced. It’s very important to me, in each collection, to keep some unique pieces.
[We walk to the next room]
OK, so where on earth did you get this machine?
I got it, well, near Florence. In Florence they have a lot of industries with a lot of factories and you know–factories are closing everyday here. So this was a machine from the 50s from a shoe factory. It was closing and it was a friend of mine’s, and when I saw him he wanted to throw the machine away, and I was like “You are crazy.” So I got the machine, and the machine was part of this collection. I wanted to make pieces that were kind of dancing with this machine. I really love the mechanics, and I really got obsessed with the movement of the jewelry. I got obsessed with the interaction of the body’s mechanics with the jewelry.
I wanted to recreate a kind of horror laboratory. So it’s like if the metal was kind of melting. It’s a mix of Bladerunner and this Italian game called Mechno [like Lincoln Logs meets Legos] and I put it in large scale. It’s a old memory from my childhood–and I wanted to enlarge them. I always love to exaggerate. The challenge is to find the perfect balance between the micro-sculptures which are the jewelry and the bigger installation settings–the challenge is to make them co-exist and not have either one overwhelm the other.
Tell me about the terrariums.
It’s my first exhibition in an art gallery, and I’m very ironic in my work. To me the words ‘monographic’, ‘art gallery’–they sound really serious to me. So I wanted to come up with an ironic name for the collection–the Delphinarium. So with the globes, I wanted to play with what’s real and what’s fake. To create three microcosms–air, earth, and water–by choosing my favorite animals that I’m obsessed with: bees, frogs, and these two very creepy primordial fishes. [Ed. note: They're actually Axolotl salamanders.]
How did you find them?
You know someone?
Yes, [laughs] I know someone who knows animals. [We weren't getting any more information about Delettrez's secret animal dealer. Moving on.]
So would you do something like this again? Presenting your pieces in bigger settings like this?
Yes, I would love to be more close to the art world. I would love to present. I would love to have a collection presentation like this every time. I decided to pick this week at Pitti because there is a lot going on. To me it was a challenge to even present something so feminine as jewelery in a men’s fashion week. I always present in Paris, and I wanted to come back to Florence.
Click through to see the exhibit.