GianCarlo Montebello


4 APRIL 2023 –  5 MAY 2023

A nearly three years from his passing, the exhibition aims to present some initial reflections on the complex and extraordinary figure of GianCarlo Montebello (Milan, 1941-2020), a paradigmatic example of an innovator, artist, and creative mind in a unique and rarely practiced field such as artist’s jewelry and precious ornamentation, of which he was both the publisher and master.

After studying at the School of Art at Castello Sforzesco in Milan and gaining some formative experiences in the world of furniture and design, which introduced him to the cultural and artistic environment of the time, in 1967 Montebello, along with his wife Teresa Pomodoro, sister of Arnaldo and Giò, founded GEM Montebello (named after his initials and with reference to the precious stone in English). They positioned themselves as publishers of jewelry designed by artists to be produced in limited editions. Between 1967 and 1978, GianCarlo and Teresa collaborated with over 50 artists, producing around 200 limited-edition jewelry pieces, depending on the work executed by the craftsmen chosen by GEM and the formal requirements of the artist.

The idea was to create affordable jewelry, surpassing the concept of unique pieces and reaching a wide audience with a democratic and informative cultural vision. The production involved a workshop with goldsmiths and enamellers for traditional techniques and, in parallel, semi-industrial serial processes, aiming to reduce costs and identify innovative solutions for execution methods and the use of materials, even non-precious ones.

The initiative immediately enjoyed unexpected success, and many artists joined the project, ranging from young artists of the time such as Fausta Squatriti, Amalia del Ponte, Rodolfo Aricò, to established names like Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, Lucio Fontana, with whom he created the famous “AntiSofia” necklace or the “Ellisse” bracelets, Gastone Novelli, Piero Dorazio, Pietro Consagra, whose extraordinary “Ornaments for the body” are remembered.

Over time, the collaborations became international, including César, Sonia Delaunay, Hans Richter, Joe Tilson, Lowell Nesbitt, Niki de Saint Phalle, Jesús Soto, Alex Katz, Roberto Matta, Man Ray, with whom Montebello developed a privileged relationship of work and friendship. A pivotal element contributing to the success was the catalog with unique cards, accompanied by extraordinary photographs by Ugo Mulas, who, already famous, contributed to the operation out of friendship. GEM’s work gained fame abroad, leading to invitations to exhibit in prestigious venues such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, the Zonnehof Museum in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, and many others.

The activity came to a dramatic end in 1978 due to an armed robbery of the entire collection displayed in an exhibition in Udine, never recovered, with only the specimens already in private collections surviving, some of which are featured in the exhibition.