Jewels from the personal collection of Princess Salimah Aga Kahn

September 7th to 22nd 2012

Like herbarium sheets, the 135 plates featured in Camille Henrot's piece Jewels from the Personal Collection of Princess Salimah Aga Khan present various botanical specimens — plants and flowers — gathered by the artist from the private flower-beds decorating building entrances on the Upper East Side, New York City's wealthiest neighbourhood. Roland Barthes argues that flowers symbolise all things useless and luxurious, yet the purpose of those planted in these ornamental urban sites is to construct a border and figure — in the etymological sense of the word — the image of "paradise on earth". A "paradise for the living", echoing the paradayadâm, an Old Persian term meaning "beyond the wall" and which, when associated with the word djivadi, refers to that which is "lively, living, belonging to the time of life".

The flowers collected in this Upper East Side paradise for the living, located on Manhattan Island, are brought together and displayed here on the facsimiles of a Christie's auction catalogue. The catalogue details the entire jewelry collection belonging to Princess Salimah Aga Khan, auctioned by Christie's at the Hotel Richemond in Geneva on November 13th 1995 — jewels received during her twenty-six-year marriage to the Aga Khan. The sale took place following her divorce, while the Aga Kahn resorted to the courts, that same year, in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the sale.

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