The first major museum exhibition of jewelry from the personal collection of Madeleine Albright premiered at the Museum of Arts and Design on September 30, 2009 and closed on January 31, 2010. Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection featured more than 200 pins, many of which Secretary Albright wore to communicate a message or a mood during her diplomatic tenure. The exhibition examines the collection for its historic significance as well as the expressive power of jewelry and its ability to communicate through a style and language of its own. The exhibition was displayed in the Museum's Tiffany & Co. Gallery, dedicated to the study and presentation of contemporary jewelry from around the world.
In 1997, Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. While serving under President Bill Clinton, first as U.S ambassador to the United Nations, and then as Secretary of State, Albright became known for wearing brooches that purposefully conveyed her views about the situation at hand. "I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal," Secretary Albright has said. "While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying 'Read my lips,' I began urging colleagues and reporters to 'Read my pins.'"
The collection that Secretary Albright cultivated is distinctive and democratic-sometimes demure and understated, sometimes outlandish and outspoken-spanning more than a century of jewelry design and including fascinating pieces from across the globe. The works on view were chosen for their symbolic value, and while some are fine antiques, many are costume jewelry. Read My Pins explores the stories behind these works and their historical and artistic significance, and is accompanied by a book, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box, published by HarperCollins.
Over the years, Secretary Albright's pins became a part of her public persona, and they chart the course of an extraordinary journey, carving out a visual path through international and cultural diplomacy. A highlight of the exhibition will be the brooch that began Secretary Albright's unusual use of pins as a tool in her diplomatic arsenal. After Saddam Hussein's press referred to her as a serpent, Secretary Albright wore a golden snake brooch pinned to her suit for her next meeting on Iraq. Read My Pins will feature the famous snake brooch among many other pins with similar stories-some associated with important world events, others gifts from international leaders or valued friends.
The exhibition also showcases a group of Americana, which is at the center of the Madeleine Albright collection. One of her most original pieces is a pin made for her specifically on the occasion of Brooching It Diplomatically. The silver brooch shows the head of Lady Liberty with two watch faces for eyes, one of which is upside down-allowing both her and her visitor to see when it is time for an appointment to end. As demonstrated in this clever work, Read My Pins explores Albright's ongoing impact on the field of jewelry design and collecting.
After Read My Pins closed at the Museum of Arts and Design, the exhibition has traveled to 18 venues and will not close until January of 2018.
This exhibition is generously supported by Bren Simon.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum, Little Rock, Arkansas, Feb 15–Jun 1, 2010
Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle), Washington, DC, Jun 18–Oct 17, 2010
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, Nov 7, 2010–Jan 30, 2011
The Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College, Miami, Florida, Feb 24–Apr 30, 2011
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 24–Aug 14, 2011
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Georgia, Sept 3–Nov 27, 2011
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dec 13, 2011–Mar 4, 2012
Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, April 15–June 17, 2012
Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, June 30–Sept 23, 2012
Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, California, Oct 20, 2012–Jan 13, 2013
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jan 27–April 21, 2013
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, Indiana, May 11–Oct 27, 2013
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona, Nov 23, 2013–April 20, 2014
Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Jun 9–July 20, 2014
FDR Presidential Library, Hyde Park, New York, Sept 29–Nov 2, 2014
Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Independence, Missouri, Nov 30, 2014–Feb 22, 2015
Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington, March 13–June 7, 2015
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California, July 11–September 27, 2015
Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, November 19, 2016–January 29, 2017
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, California, April 3, 2017–June 25, 2017
LBJ Presidential Library, Austin, Texas, October 30th, 2017–January 21, 2018