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Kieselstein-Cord, Barry

york award art fashion

B. November 6, 1948

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Awards: Hollywood Radio and Television Society Award, 1965
         Art Directors Club of New York Award, 1967
         Illustrators Society of New York Award, 1969
         Coty American Fashion Critics Award, Jewelry Design, 1979
         Council of Fashion Designers of America, Excellence in Design, 1981
         Coty American Fashion Critics Award, Excellence in Women’s Wear Design, New York, 1984

“I am not influenced by fashion, preferring to be an influencer,” stated Barry Kieselstein-Cord, son of an architect and an illustrator, who is known for his contemporary designs in jewelry, belts, handbags, and other “sculptures for the body” (Martin, p. 221).

After studying at the Parsons School of Design, New York University, and the American Craft Institute, Kieselstein-Cord worked in the advertising business for several years before starting his jewelry company in his walk-up apartment in 1972, but he claims he knew that he was destined to be an artist at an early age. His fascination with ornamentation, particularly from the past, led him to early explorations in carving, painting, and, ultimately, metalwork. In the early 1970s, his pieces were introduced at George Jensen and quickly attracted the attention of those who recognized the sophisticated cultural elements of his creations.

Kieselstein-Cord is best known for his understated, hand-crafted, and somewhat whimsical motifs, which demonstrate the divergent interests of the designer. He is attracted to both the old and the new, the spiritual and the technological, the simple and the elaborate. These contradictions are all evident in his designs.

From his crocodiles and bears to his scarabs and serpents, the use of green gold, the rich matte finishes, and the unique textural elements all combine in dynamic, yet subdued, pieces, appreciated by collectors including Giorgio Armani, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg.

Aside from jewelry, belts buckles, and pocketbooks, he designs furniture, lamps, tabletop items, and humidors. His name also appears on scarves, ties, and eyewear, all of which are produced under licensing agreements. Kieselstein-Cord’s creations are included in the collections of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre in Paris. In 1980 he won a copyright infringement case against a jeweler who had reproduced one of his belt buckles; it was determined by the court that the item was a piece of art rather than simply a belt buckle—a significant precedent-setting decision. Considered a highly respected artist, he is greatly appreciated for his revival of the jewelers art in the United States.

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