By: SEBASTIAN PHILLIPS
Liz Swig’s collaborations with top art names bring bespoke charm to jewelry.
Before she joined their tribe as a full-on creative, Liz Swig was a renowned patron and art collector who served on the boards of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Creative Time, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. But her leap into the omnific side of the art world had nothing to do with courting easy praise or seeking validation. Swig launched LizWorks in 2014 to provide the artists she’s long championed and admired with a platform to bring their works to new audiences, challenge them with new ideas about the medium, and help them spread their respective social messages.
“Working with artists is my absolute favorite thing to do,” says the tastemaker. “I get to be part of their process, but at the same time, I’m providing them with a medium in which to play and stretch them creatively.”
Since its inception eight years ago, LizWorks has been behind some of the most exciting collaborations in contemporary art—and, in the process, given birth to many of the most desirable limited-edition treasures the jewelry world has seen. Case in point: In 2016, there was no hotter accessory than the Charmed bracelet, a piece for which she asked seven leading female artists (Mickalane Thomas, Barbara Kruger, Laurie Simmons, Rachel Feinstein, Wangechi Mutu, Cindy Sherman, and Shirin Neshat) for their takes on charms. The outcome? A feminist-forward take on a beloved talisman that elevated it from cute trinkets to wearable art.
“The idea chooses the artist for me,” says Swig when asked what talents she opts to work with. “Once my concept takes form, the excitement of the pairing begins.”
Excitement is right. In 2019, when Swig decided to reinvent one of the oldest forms of portraiture with Cameo, she enlisted photographers Catherine Opie and the aforementioned Sherman for the task. The result was a series of baubles that made their debut to much fanfare at the 2019 Venice Film Festival—it didn’t hurt that Cate Blanchett wore the collection’s impossible-to-miss Pensive earrings (by Sherman) to the festival’s Joker premiere. “I love the play of ancient and new, and I wanted to revisit and reinvent the cameo,” says Swig. “To bring two photographers’ work into an ancient three-dimensional medium felt unique and exciting.”
More recent LizWorks collaborations have focused on exploring the male energy within jewelry. In 2020, artist Rashid Johnson translated distinctive images from hisAnxiousMenseries about the Black experience in America into gold-and-titanium cuffs, signet rings, ring bands, and dog tag necklaces. By coincidence, that collection’s release coincided with 2020’s demonstrations over issues of racism and intolerance, making it all the more poignant. Later that same year came Robert Longo’s jewelry offerings, pieces that took the form of a rose and a bullet hole to address themes such as destruction, regeneration, fragility, hope, darkness, and light.
Swig is not revealing much about her next collaboration, although she does hint at another exploration into the play of contradictions. “Jewelry and art are a beautiful merger,” she says. “I think the distinction really doesn’t matter. They have a voice together.” lizworks.net