Events & Awards

A Celebration of Hip-Hop Jewelry Is Coming to AMNH

Events & AwardsMar 13, 2024

A Celebration of Hip-Hop Jewelry Is Coming to AMNH

“Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry” will open at the New York City museum on May 9.

Slick Rick
On May 9, the American Museum of Natural History will open “Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry,” a special exhibition that celebrates hip-hop’s cultural influence through custom-made jewelry worn by some of its most iconic stars, such as Slick Rick, pictured above. (Photo by Janette Beckman, courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery.)
New York—An exhibition exploring the history of hip-hop jewelry is coming to New York City’s American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

Arriving on the heels of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, celebrated last year, “Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry” will feature dozens of jewelry pieces, tracing the history of the genre from the 1980s to today. 

Opening May 9 in the museum’s Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, it will delve into hip-hop’s cultural influence through jewelry worn by some of its most iconic stars, beginning with the oversized gold chains embraced by rap’s pioneers in the 1980s.

The exhibition will then explore the 1990s, when emcees-turned-business moguls were sporting diamond and platinum record label pendants, and the 2000s, when artists turned to multi-colored, avant-garde jewels incorporating high fashion, pop culture, and rap history references.

The curation will highlight hip-hop jewelry as “enduring statements of individuality, empowerment, and resilience in the hip-hop community and global culture at large,” the museum said.

Highlights of the exhibition include Slick Rick’s gem-encrusted crown (pictured at the top of the article); the Notorious B.I.G.’s legendary gold “Jesus piece;” a diamond-studded Roc-A-Fella Records medallion for the record label co-founded by Jay-Z; Nicki Minaj’s “Barbie” pendant; and pieces from Erykah Badu, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Ferg, and Tyler the Creator.

“These jewelry pieces are not just magnificent in and of themselves, they’re an important part of hip-hop history and hip-hop culture as artists claimed and transformed traditional symbols of luxury and success,” said Sean M. Decatur, president of AMNH. 

“Hip-hop jewelry has had a huge impact on our wider modern culture, and we are excited to provide our visitors the opportunity to see these remarkable pieces, especially in the context of our Mignone Halls dedicated to gems and minerals.”

 Related stories will be right here … 

Many of the pieces that will be on display are featured in the book “Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History,” published by Taschen in 2022.

Written by journalist Vikki Tobak, the book also features a foreword from rapper and record producer Ricky “Slick Rick” Waters and essays by A$AP Ferg, LL Cool J, Kevin “Coach K” Lee, and Pierre “P” Thomas.

“Jewelry is a cornerstone of hip-hop culture, and you can see the evolution of jewelry alongside the rise of hip-hop itself,” said Tobak, who is also the guest curator of the “Ice Cold” exhibit.

“From being a culture formed in communities and neighborhoods, and then stepping into its power and starting to impact global pop culture, hip-hop and its jewelry tell a bigger story. This exhibition explores that world of hip-hop’s culture of adornment and celebrates the pioneering artists and jewelers who made it all come together.”

Several of the book’s contributors are also involved with the exhibition, which AMNH said is being developed by a curatorial team and advisory board that includes artists, industry professionals, jewelers, and academics.

Slick Rick serves as the exhibit’s senior advisor while Lee is a guest co-curator.

Karam Gill, creative director and filmmaker behind the 2021 documentary series “Ice Cold,” is also a co-curator.

“‘Ice Cold’ will truly spark a sense of excitement and curiosity into our world of jewelry and baubles as an extended form of hip-hop culture, which has inspired the global stage as an extension of our art,” said Slick Rick.

“This collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History is a harmonious blend of creativity and cultural significance. I’m very honored to be a part of creating a unique and immersive experience for the museum's visitors in such a renowned space in the mecca of New York City.”

“Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry” will be located in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery within the museum’s Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

Another jewelry exhibition, “Garden of Green: Exquisite Jewelry from the Collection of Van Cleef & Arpels,” is currently on view in the gallery until Sunday, March 17.

The curator of the Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals is Kate Kiseeva, assistant curator in the division of physical sciences. The “Ice Cold” exhibition is designed by the museum’s exhibition department.

Entry will be included with general admission.

More information about the upcoming exhibition is available on the AMNH website.

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