Masterpieces by Arcimboldo, Monet, and Le Corbusier are now on display at Maison Chaumet’s exhibition “Végétal – L’École de la Beauté” (also known as Botanical), housed at the Beaux-Arts de Paris. From June 16 to September 4, the exhibition spotlights nearly 400 graphic, pictorial, sculptural, textile, and furniture pieces, alongside some hundred jewelry objects by the Parisian jeweler and other luxury names. Centered on a botanical theme, the show echoes a quote from the Maison’s founder, Marie-Étienne Nitot, that goes, “I am a naturalist jeweler.”
In addition to this Paris endeavor, Chaumet is holding a satellite extension in its Beijing China World Boutique, where local audiences can better immerse themselves in this project. This version fully engages visitors’ senses and emotions, allowing them to experience the naturalistic narrative of Chaumet and understand how the Maison draws inspiration from the great outdoors.
Despite current market dynamics and lockdown uncertainties, hard luxury has shown a strong resilience in China. According to consulting company Bain, Chinese jewelry spending increased by about 35 percent in 2021, driven by millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2010). These demographics are not just idly browsing luxury sites or imitating styling from publications; rather, they’re actively shopping and seeking inspiration from extensive sources, as shown in Jing Daily’s market report The Secrets To Selling Hard Luxury To China’s Gen Z.
How can legacy jewelers stand out against competitors and communicate directly and authentically with their audiences? Chaumet offers a solution with the unveiling of this remarkable botanical exhibition — a daring, pioneering initiative in the luxury industry.
Underlining Chaumet’s exclusivity by honoring natural beauty
For Chaumet, the exhibition presents an opportunity to explore its brand identity beyond being a jeweler and tell new stories. “By proposing a deep understanding of nature from a botanist’s point of view — reviewing nature and plant species not just as a landscape, but as the sum of the different native elements — and by revealing the relationship between man and nature, [the exhibition] initiates thinking about nature from a broader and newer perspective,” said Chaumet CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt.
Freed from chronological categorization, Botanical offers visitors an immersive itinerary that recounts a botanical tale across more than 7,000 years of art, juxtaposing primitive and contemporary creativity. Some works are recognized around the world as masterpieces by big names, like Irises by Monet and Summer and Spring by Arcimboldo from the Musée du Louvre.
Unlike a more traditional curation (displaying objects of the same type), this show mixes different disciplines and size ratios. For example, the clover brooch created by the brand in 1852 is displayed alongside the 16th-century Pistoia Musei millefleurs tapestry, which measures twelve meters in length.
The selection of works was made by curator Marc Jeanson, who chose exclusively from motifs in the jeweler’s creations and represented them in a botanical sense. As Jeanson told the media, “The idea of Botanical lies in re-educating the public in how to look at the living things that surround us, through the universal prism of aesthetics and beauty.”
Beyond the items on display, Chaumet is honoring nature in other ways. In planning and constructing the exhibition, the brand has shown its commitment to sustainable production, with materials being biosourced, reusable, or recyclable. Structures feature minimal solvents and consumables. Additionally, items have been rented where possible and transportation was reduced to a minimum.
“With Botanical, the Maison is illuminating the challenges we face today, but in its own way,” explained Mansvelt. “Not in a militant, protest or political dimension, but through art and the dimension of beauty, through the role and the contribution of artistic creation to the questions that drive humanity.”
A manifesto of prestige
According to Botanical’s catalog, this is not merely a high jewelry show but an exceptional art exhibition. Borrowed from many of the world’s prestigious museums and private collections, the eclectic collection features various art genres seen in objects from Chaumet and other names, including Yves Saint Laurent and jewelry brand Lalique.
In doing so, Chaumet presents its legacy in a different light and therefore broadens its field of reference for the visitor. But the project is not just a retrospective devoted solely to the Maison. Mansvelt described the role of Chaumet as both patron and initiator: “Patron, because without Chaumet Botanical would not exist. And initiator, because this exhibition is entirely the manifestation of our desire.”
[Snapshots from the Botancial exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of Chaumet]
On top of sourcing from the Chaumet archive and various houses, the exhibition unites more than 70 lenders, including museums, foundations, galleries, and private collectors. This list is awe-inspiring: Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Musée du Louvre, Institut de France, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Pistoia Musei, Hamburger Kunsthalle, and the Albion Art Collection in Tokyo. Chaumet’s ability to gather the world’s outstanding marquees and institutions together exemplifies its reputation and prestige in the art world.
Artistry and expertise at different levels
Considered more as an artist of the jewelry sector, Chaumet has become a leading contributor to the international art scene. With Botanical, the centuries-old house builds a dialogue with global artists who pay close attention to nature such as Chinese contemporary artist Jiang Zhi, whose work, in fact, often references plants. Notable collections like Love Letters and Going and Coming are featured.
Curator Jeanson implemented an innovative approach to the display, allowing visitors to explore various natural landscapes spontaneously. Here, installation and lighting are key — showcasing the Maison’s craft and virtuosity, but in a subtle way. For example, the shadow of Queen Hortense’s hydrangea brooch looks like the reflection of real plants when refracted on the display pedestals.
Botanical’s conceptualization began in 2018 when Chaumet collaborated with Jeanson for the first time. As the curator shared, “The initial idea started to develop at the time of Salon du Dessin with a new botanical look from the Chaumet collection, and an appreciation of the diversity of its collections and variety of archives.” Four years later, Botanical now sets the standard for jewelry and art exhibitions.
In a world full of challenges and uncertainties, Chaumet is committed to creating exclusive experiences for consumers. By leveraging its prestige in the luxury industry and its expertise at different levels, it’s no wonder that the high jeweler has continued to sparkle throughout history.