Innovative Ornament

Paul Derrez wearing one of his Face necklaces

Paul Derrez’s Wisselrings (or Exchange Rings) marked his foray into professional jewelry-making. Designed in 1975, they consist of a curved silver line that only becomes wearable when connected with a colorful piece of Perspex. Non-traditional materials dovetailed perfectly with Derrez’s avant garde style and offered him more creative freedom. He explained of the Wisselrings:

“I combine traditional material of silver with the more modern material of acrylic, using different colors to create interchangeable pieces. This demonstrates how important the interactivity of the wearer is by offering the wearer choices. To touch and ear a piece of jewelry is crucial. Each piece is an example of three-dimensional interaction.”

Examples of these whimsical, minimalistic rings are held in the permanent collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I chose jewelry that was original, clever, witty, and communicative…I liked and still like to cross classic borders qua design, material use, production method, and wearability.

Paul Derrez

Paul Derrez

Paul Derrez is an Amsterdam-based visual artist, jewelry designer, gallery owner, teacher, author, and collector. He grew up helping in his parents’ jewelry and watchmaking shop before attending the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven between 1968 and 1970 and the School of Arts in Utrecht from 1970 until 1972. Derrez settled in Amsterdam after an internship at the Sieraad Gallery, the first gallery in the city to specialize in contemporary jewelry. His initial foray into the contemporary jewelry world was the minimalist, playful Wisselring (Exchange Ring) from 1975.

Sieraad Gallery closed in 1975; the next year, Derrez filled the void by opening Ra Gallery which remained in business until December 2019. His focus was exhibiting, selling, and educating the public about avant-garde contemporary jewelry. Derrez’s career, and gallery, began at an exciting and important time for the jewelry world when artists were truly beginning to explore new concepts and materials that broke with historical conventions. At the beginning of his career his work was gender-neutral and incorporated primarily silver and acrylate. Over time, his pieces developed into more homoerotic shapes and provocative subject matter.

Derrez was a founder of the Dutch Association of jewelry designers and makers (Vereniging van Edelsmeden en Sieraadontwerpers) and served as a board member from 1976 through 1981. In 1980, he became the first winner of the Françoise van den Bosch Prize for stimulating international interest in jewelry. As the decades progressed, Derrez’s work evolved, becoming more personal and more concerned with global social developments; in the 1990s he created pieces expressing his grief at the loss of many dear friends to the AIDS epidemic.

Derrez continues working, inventing, and creating to the present day. He and his longtime partner, Willem Hoogstede, collect and admire jewelry in their personal lives as well. In 2015, Derrez was awarded the Herbert Hofmann Prize in Munich, and the CODA Museum in Apeldoorn honored him with an exhibition of 100 of his pieces and an accompanying publication. His work can be found in permanent collections across the globe including the Stedelijk Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, the Neue Sammlung in Munich, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Auction Results Paul Derrez