It was the 2011 Savage Beauty retrospective of the work by Alexander McQueen at the V&A which prompted jewellery designer Shaun Leane to sell 32 of the show stoppers he created for McQueen’s runway shows. “It was a real moment for me standing in the middle of the exhibition reliving the energy that Lee and I had, as well as all the memories of our friendship.” Leane recalled that the jewels had been originally created to provoke questions about what is jewellery, fashion or art. “ I felt really sad at the thought that after the exhibition they would be boxed up again in crates and put into storage out of sight.” The powerful pieces include tusk anklets, created for the late Isabella Blow, silver shark tooth cuffs, pheasant claws and Tahitian pearl earrings and a crown of thorns, with several of his bespoke fine jewellery, will be auctioned on December 5 by Sotheby’s in New York.
He expects art loving collectors to be interested in the smaller jewels, with museums buying larger pieces to display in permanent collections to inspire future fashion and design students, in the same way he studied the work of past masters at the V&A, when he visited as a young Hatton Garden goldsmith’s apprentice. Indeed, Andrew Bolton, head curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts Costume Institute has expressed interest in a couple of pieces to display over their 2018 Fashion and Religion Exhibition.
“I’m an old romantic,” Leane sighs. “I like the thought that I can leave something that will inspire and surprise others for years to come.” The pieces are full of memories so will he miss anything in particular? “The coiled corset,” he answers quickly, “which really stands on its own as a sculpture and was the only piece that was signed by me and Lee.” He’s intrigued where the diamond glove made for Daphne Guinness will end up. “It was so complex but I wanted to bridge fashion and high-end fine jewellery and we did 21 fittings on Daphne making rubber and concrete casts of her arm. I want someone amazing to buy it like Lady Gaga.”
See the pieces that will be auctioned by Sotheby’s below.