Tiffany is celebrating its 150th anniversary in London—and next chapter under owner LVMH—with a massive exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery called “Vision & Virtuosity”.
It highlights 400 objects from Tiffany’s archives, including the famous 128.54 carat diamond recently worn by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, and Audrey Hepburn’s original shooting script from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The exhibition is a love letter to the heritage and history of the American jewellery brand, showcasing everything from old displays from the Fifth Avenue Flagship’s windows to baubles worn by the likes of Liz Taylor and Princess Diana.
London was the natural choice for the exhibition according to CEO Anthony Ledru, both to mark the anniversary, and because the UK is Tiffany’s biggest market in Europe. But there will be an exhibition space for such treasures at the flagship Tiffany’s store on New York’s Fifth Avenue when it reopens later in 2022.
“We’re celebrating our 185th anniversary this year, so we had to have a big moment. The gallery and location have the level of elegance that we’re looking for,” he says. The Saatchi Gallery has been described as one of the most beautiful art spaces in London, and is in Chelsea, one of the most upmarket neighbourhoods.
Tiffany may be nearing its second century, but its $16 billion acquisition by the world’s largest luxury company, LVMH, is less than two years old. Ledru became CEO in 2021 following the takeover, and he spoke about his ambition to connect the company’s past with its future as a part of LVMH.
“We are a mix of the old and new world—America and Europe—and we’re building a bridge between both. It’s the tension about heritage and modernity that we bring to the table,” says Ledru. “We had moments where the brand was a bit more modern or a bit focused on heritage, but the formula is a mix. We believe we have a very broad aesthetic and a broad price point and we are going to keep that.”
Ledru likes that the new exhibition isn’t in chronological order—it starts with a space that calls back to the displays in its Fifth Avenue windows, including one that pays tribute to Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatbsy film. Tiffany was the jeweller for the movie, and a diamond headpiece worn by Carey Mulligan can be seen later on in the exhibition.
Gallery-goers go on to explore the brand’s history—including the “blue book" from 1845 that holds the claim of being the first mail order catalogue in the United States.
The history goes right to modern day, including an emerald necklace last seen on Lady Gaga at this year’s BAFTA awards.
One historical piece that stood out was a diamond-encrusted golden pair of binoculars from the gilded age.
Tiffany’s Vice President Christopher Young, who curated the exhibition, says the original owner of the binoculars would have used it to signal their wealth and privilege when out on the town.
From a different age of excess—the 1980s—viewers can see Paloma Picasso’s colourful 1985 necklace that incorporated more than 15 types of precious stones.
Rather boldly, there’s also a room where the ticketed public can try on Tiffany’s diamond engagement rings themselves and sit and admire them on their own left-hands.
Young says he’s expecting proposals—and, when asked about potential risks, points out there’s plenty of security.
It being 2022, there are plenty of made-for-social-media opportunities at the exhibition. Love messages can be written on the walls in one of the Tiffany-blue rooms using touch screens. The messages are broadcast across the room.
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And if you’re not Lady Gaga or Beyoncé you can try on the yellow 128.54 carat Tiffany diamond for yourself—if only virtually. There’s an opportunity to take selfies in the same space where the real diamond necklace is on display.
But one of the main attractions of the exhibition is sure to be the room dedicated to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The song “Moon River” from the film plays in the background while viewers can admire the iconic black Givenchy dress Audrey Hepburn wore when she captured hearts as Holly Golightly.
A copy of Hepburn’s shooting script—with notes—is on display and parts of the film are shown on the wall alongside the screenplay.
“We just want every visitor to leave the room and be as crazy as Audrey Hepburn was about Tiffany. If that is what they can take away from the exhibit when they leave, I think mission accomplished,” Ledru said.
“Vision & Virtuosity” opens at the Saatchi gallery on June 10th and will run through August 19th. Tickets are free on the Tiffany & Co exhibition app.