American Museum of Natural History to Open Iconic Hip-Hop Jewelry Exhibit

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August 11, 2023, marked the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop music, but celebrations for the groundbreaking genre just keep on flowing. In commemoration of Hip-Hop’s most recent birthday, the American Museum of Natural History announced an upcoming exhibition showing off rap culture’s most iconic and recognizable jewelry.  

The exhibit, titled Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry, is set to open on May 9th. According to a press statement released by AMNHIce Cold will feature lots of “stunning” jewelry pieces dating from the 1980s all the way to 2024. These pieces include Slick Rick’s gem-encrusted crown, Biggie Smalls’ legendary gold ‘Jesus piece’, the diamond Roc-A-Fella medallion for the record label co-founded by Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj’s iced out “Barbie” pendant, and pieces from A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Ferg, Erykah Badu, Tyler, the Creator, and others.

“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,” Sean M. Decatur, President of the American Museum of Natural History, said. “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.” 

Ice Cold guest curator, Vikki Tobak, added that jewelry is a “cornerstone of hip-hop culture” that “tells a bigger story.” 

“Jewelry is a cornerstone of hip-hop culture and you can see the evolution of jewelry alongside the rise of hip-hop itself,” Tobak said. “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.”

Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry will be on view in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery within the Museum’s Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. The exhibition is not only curated by Tobak, journalist and author of the book Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History, published by Taschen, but it’s also guest co-curated by the founder of Quality Control Music, Kevin “Coach K” Lee, and creative director and filmmaker of the 2021 documentary series ICE COLDKaram Gill.

Access to Ice Cold will be included with a general admission ticket to AMNH located on the Upper West Side in New York City. You can get your tickets here

Image Credit: Janette Beckman, Fahey/Klein Gallery

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