Sight Unseen was originally conceived as site-specific work for contemporary art gallery Tintype, which was formerly a watchmaker’s workshop, located in a building full of jewellery related businesses, just off Hatton Garden.
This solo show (May - June 2012) coincided with the launch of Lichtenstein’s book Diamond Street: the Hidden World of Hatton Garden (Hamish Hamilton). She spent over five years conducting a deep exploration of the Hatton Garden area, with its ancient priories, diamond workshops, underground vaults and subterranean rivers.
In this exhibition Rachel Lichenstein distilled her research experience to re-imagine materials and artefacts. Velvet, gold, water and found objects form a multi-layered homage to the craftspeople who operate in the Hatton Garden area: that secret ‘fold in the map’.
Working behind closed doors, both above and below the street are cutters, polishers, engravers, dealers in gems, silversmiths, gold beaters, pearl merchants and lapidaries. Their skills, knowledge, stories and memories are the source for Sight Unseen.
Like an archivist, Lichtenstein collected and displayed the specialist tools and accouterments of the jeweller’s trade, some of them used by people she knew including her late grandfather, Gedaliah Lichtenstein, a watchmaker and dealer.
“Whilst researching my book, I became increasingly aware of the richness of hidden stories concealed in the fabric of the area. Diamond Street documents these narratives and tells the history of Hatton Garden, but as an artist I wanted to dig deeper; this show is a visual evocation of the layers of time, memory, and knowledge that accumulate in a place, which are as precious as the gold, silver and gemstones on which the jewellery business is centered.”
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