Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Bulgari’s “Serpenti” Exhibition
Bulgari, Serpent Tuboga, 1975. Courtesy of Bulgari.

Bulgari, Serpent Tuboga, 1975. Courtesy of Bulgari.

The problem with good art is that it makes bad art look worse. Good design makes bad design implode by lack of ideas. Great execution brings out the clumsiness in everything else.

Contemporary Bulgari designs pale by comparison to their early slithering predecessors. The latter are part of a small-scale curated exhibit at Bulgari’s flagship store on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York (on view until February 28).  This type of show is becoming de rigeur these days but it does not make the comparison any less unfortunate.

All snake necklaces, bracelets, and rings that recount the brand’s heritage, particularly as it developed in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, are unique and powerful. Wonderfully executed, they exude femininity and elegance. My favorite piece is a 1975 Tuboga (a Bulgari trademarked design of a bracelet that twines around the wrist) in gold with diamonds, green enameling, and two rubies in place of the snake’s eyes. The enameling—a practically lost art today—is green and luminous. A series of small hexagonal pieces of delicate and precise enamel punctuate the Tuboga at regular intervals. Each one displays the same geometric pattern that makes it appear as if rays of light are moving toward its center. The effect is dazzling. The snake shimmers. It moves. It is alive.

No such excitement in the contemporary section unfortunately. While Bulgari is still producing Tubogas based on the snake iconography, the results are weighted down by an inordinate amount of precious, multi-colored stones that inundate, unimaginatively, every nook and cranny of the bracelets. Having had such a good thing going for about thirty years, why replace quality with quantity? Is this how modern greed defines luxury today?

© Thomaï Serdari