Editore e maestro del gioiello d’artista

GianCarlo Montebello

04/04/2023 – 05/05/2023

Almost three years after his passing, the exhibit intends to offer some initial reflections on the complex and extraordinary figure of GianCarlo Montebello (Milan, 1941-2020), a paradigmatic example of innovator, artist, and creative in a completely original and little practiced field such as artist jewelry and precious ornamentation, of which he was a publisher and master. After studying at the School of Art at the Sforza Castle and some training experiences in the world of furniture and design that introduced him to the cultural and artistic environment of Milan at the time, in 1967 Montebello, together with his wife Teresa Pomodoro, sister of Arnaldo and Giò, founded GEM, proposing to be a publisher of jewelry designed by artists to be produced in limited editions. Between 1967 and 1978, GianCarlo and Teresa collaborated with over 50 artists, editing about 200 multiple limited edition jewelry pieces, depending on the work performed by the artisans chosen by GEM and the formal requirements of the artist. The idea was to produce affordable jewelry, surpassing the concept of a unique piece and reaching the general public in a democratic and informative cultural vision. The production, which Montebello directed in all its phases, utilized a laboratory with goldsmiths and enamellers for traditional techniques, and simultaneously semi-industrial serial processes, with the aim of reducing costs and identifying innovative solutions for executive methodologies and the use of materials, even non-precious ones.
The initiative immediately had unexpected success, and many artists joined the project, from young artists of the time such as Fausta Squatriti, Amalia del Ponte, Rodolfo Aricò, to established names like Arnaldo and Gio’ Pomodoro, Lucio Fontana (with whom he created the famous “AntiSofia” necklace or the “Ellisse” bracelets), Gastone Novelli, Piero Dorazio, Pietro Consagra, including the extraordinary “Ornaments for the body.” Over time, collaborations became international: César, Sonia Delaunay, Hans Richter, Joe Tilson, Lowell Nesbitt, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jesús Soto, Harold Paris, Ronald Mallory, Meret Oppenheim, Edival Ramosa, Roberto Sebastian Matta, Man Ray, with whom Montebello forged a privileged relationship of work and friendship. The collaboration between the two gave life to unique objects such as the famous “Optic – Topic” mask, a jewelry-sculpture of full surrealist matrix.
A key element that contributed to the success was to understand the importance of communication with the creation of a card catalog of great originality, a work of art in itself, accompanied by the extraordinary photos of Ugo Mulas who, already famous, lent himself to the operation by way of friendship. GEM’s work also gained fame abroad, so much so that they were invited to exhibit in prestigious places such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, the Zonnehof Museum in Amersfoort, Holland and many others.
The activity ended dramatically in 1978 due to the armed robbery of the entire collection on display in Udine, and never found, of which only the specimens already in private collections survived, some of them protagonists in the exhibition.
Montebello, with a profound personal reflection on the event, decided to leave the role of publisher to create and design jewels of his own invention, a real “second life”, a new business which he later gave the name B.O., initials of Body Ornaments ; he also resumed collaborating, albeit sporadically, with some artists for specific projects.
The working methodology and poetic research expressed with his signature has become an example of clear vision and ability to combine shapes and materials in multiple solutions of unexpected creativity.
His human and professional figure, as described by those who knew him, restores the different and complementary traits of an affectionate husband and father, beloved and generous teacher, publisher – friend and sensitive “interpreter” of artists, brilliant creative, goldsmith innovative, tireless disseminator: roles always conducted with the stature of the artist-poet, profound and rigorous.
The adventures of GEM and B.O., which deserve the necessary insights due to their vastness and complexity, are therefore told as two great chapters of a single, extraordinary story, organized in two exhibitions, in spring and autumn, to narrate and honor the memory of a brilliant mind, an uncommon sensitivity, an ineffable elegance, an example of courage and self-rethinking, not only to be admired, but for which to be grateful.