The late French collector, gallerist and art dealer Yves Gastou, who died at the age of 72 in 2020, was a pioneering figure in the worlds of art and design, revered for having an eye for—and bringing to the forefront—a variety of overlooked design movements over centuries past.
Along with his reputation for shining a light on the people who would later become some of the biggest names in 20th century contemporary design, including Italian architects Ettore Sottsass and Carlo Mollino, Gastou was also known for a sizeable collection of men’s rings he had amassed in his lifetime. While the exact number of rings he owned is unknown, it is estimated to amount to over 1,000. In a time when men were abandoning the idea of adornment—the trend of foregoing ornamentation in favour of functionality had begun during the French Revolution in the 18th century—Gastou celebrated it. He flaunted his rings, which he began collecting in his early years.
At the Men’s Rings: Yves Gastou Collection exhibition at K11 Musea, which is organised by L’école School of Jewelry Arts and runs through January 31, 2023, some 300 of Gastou’s cherished rings are on display. This collection debuted in Paris in 2018, before travelling to Tokyo in early 2022.
In celebration of the exhibition, Gastou’s son Victor, who is also an antiques dealer, dives deep into his father’s ring collection.
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When did your father’s love of rings begin?
My father’s passion for rings began in childhood, around age eight or nine, in Carcassonne, a hilltop town in the south of France. He was fascinated by rings, especially those worn by a bishop [at his church]. He took communion several times [in one go], and his mother caught him and asked him why. He said, “Mum, the man has such a nice ring.” It created a great impact on him, and that’s how it all started.
Did his passion for rings influence your journey?
His passion for collecting rings was more personal at the beginning. He did not share it with us; it was like his secret garden. When he began to wear more rings on his hands, I realised he had been collecting; this was how my fascination with rings began, in my childhood.
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