GianCarlo Montebello

Body Ornaments: a map for the body

19 SEPTEMBER 2023 – 10 NOVEMBER 2023

BABS Art Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition “GianCarlo Montebello. Body Ornaments. Una mappa per il corpo”, the second event dedicated to GianCarlo
Montebello (Milan, 1941-2020), editor and master in the field of jewelry. In the previous exhibition we have retraced the extraordinary season of GEM Montebello: between 1967 and 1978 GianCarlo and his wife Teresa Pomodoro collaborated with over 50 internationally renowned artists, editing approximately 200 limited-edition multiple jewelry pieces. The collection, accompanied by photographs by Ugo Mulas for the catalog, was exhibited in some of the most important museums and cultural institutions of the world.

This activity came to a dramatic conclusion in 1978 due to the theft of the entire collection. Montebello, with deep personal reflection on this event, decided to step down from his role of editor to design and create jewels as an author,
inaugurating a new adventure, which he later named B.O., Body Ornaments.

From the 1980s until his passing, Montebello closely collaborated with goldsmiths he selected and trained, giving life to numerous collections and making significant contributions to the theoretical debate on jewelry. In the mid-1980s, he participated in the foundation of the Jewelry Department at the European Institute of Design in Milan, where he taught Drawing and Construction Techniques. In the following decades, he was invited to numerous international exhibitions, both with the work of GEM and B.O.

This second exhibition analyzies the journey of B.O. and Montebello’s creative vision through some of his most emblematic projects, following the thread of a precise narrative where the concepts of ornament and body take center stage. As he declared in 2008, “[…] I could say that I have designed a ‘map for the body’: rather than creating jewelry collections, I have tried to chart the geography of the body; the result of my work is similar to a theater trunk, capable of containing what is necessary for the person who will wear it.”

From the Punto Colore (the first project dating back to 1979, a tiny, mobile gold point enameled on both sides: literally, a new life’s turning point) to the Stringhe with gold tips, to the silver keychain Link, to the oversized button as an earring, Montebello celebrates everyday’s simplicity, emphasizing function as an aesthetic element, reclaiming and sublimating the concept of the ready-made.

With the series Fiches, Ornamenti per Bradamante, Softness, Superleggeri, Montebello investigates both precious and non-precious materials, the methods and variations of composing elementary forms combined in multiple solutions, potentially infinite, and last but not least, the study of classic jewelry techniques combined with the latest ones: from various types of gemstones and stainless steel sheets cutting, from chemical cutting to the laser, to mechanical cutting based on numerical control.