A couple of weeks ago, down in Richmond, Virginia, jeweler Elizabeth Locke invited close friends to join her in viewing her extraordinary collection of intricately crafted works of art — precious souvenirs designed for Grand Tour travelers of the mid-18th to late-19th centuries — on display in a new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke” (running through September 2, 2019) perfectly captures Elizabeth’s lifelong passion for one-of-a-kind antiquities: 19th century micromosaics and pietra duras, 18th century Chinese gambling counters, Essex crystals, miniature paintings or antique Japanese porcelain buttons.
The celebratory “Art Weekend in Richmond” began on Friday evening with a dinner for out of town guests at Try-me, a private art and education space in Richmond’s Main Street gallery district housing Pam and Bill Royall’s fabulous private collection of contemporary art. Wandering among the art displayed were friends of Elizabeth and her husband John Staelin from all over the United States.
On Saturday morning the same group met for a tour of the new Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. Designed by Stephen Holl and completed in 2018, the ICA is a sleek, zinc-clad building near the center of the VCU campus. Director Dominic Willsdon led the group through the current exhibits and explained the concept behind this avant-garde space.
It was then on to an outdoor picnic in the garden of Malou and Waite Rawles’ beautiful 19th century home on historic Church Hill. Surrounded by iris and peonies in full bloom, guests were treated to a traditional ‘box lunch’ from Sally Bell’s, which has been producing the carefully packed lunches since 1924. Parker Larson’s adorable 20-month-old daughter Palmer joined the group at this point and delighted everyone by blowing kisses.
On Saturday afternoon the group divided in half with some guests visiting the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and others visiting the about-to-open American Civil War Museum with Waite Rawles.
On Saturday night, Richmond friends of Elizabeth and John’s joined out-of-town guests for the official opening of Elizabeth’s exhibit “A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke” at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. More than 92 micomosaics are shown in the exhibit, most in settings designed by the jeweler who has been collecting the rare and tiny works of art for more than 30 years.
Many guests were also wearing Elizabeth’s jewels at this festive dinner that took place in the Atrium of the museum. Elizabeth herself was wearing a micromosaic necklace with matching earrings that she had designed for the evening. Many guests made a beeline for the VMFA shop to purchase the special scarf that was commissioned by Elizabeth to commemorate the opening of the exhibit. The exhibit will remain at VMFA until September 2.