Summer’s Best Accessory Doesn’t Cost a Penny

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Just some of the ribbon bracelets at the "I Wish Your Wish" exhibit. Photo: Ashlea Halpern

There's an ingeniously free way to decorate your wrists this season, and all it requires is stopping by the lobby of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, where Brazilian artist Rivane Neuenschwander's Eu desejo o seu desejo / I Wish Your Wish (2003) exhibit is on display through September 19. The gallery walls are lined with thousands of silk ribbons in every shade of the rainbow; each is printed with one of 60 wishes ("I wish for peace in the Middle East," "I wish to be rid of irrational fears," etc.). These are real wishes, submitted by real people, and based off a reciprocal-wish practice at the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Salvador, Brazil. It's chilling to behold so many unfulfilled sentiments, some selfish, some anything but.

Anyway. Back to the superficial fashion angle: Museumgoers can pull a ribbon (or three) out of the wall, tie it around their wrist (the art handler on duty suggested using three knots), and then think positive thoughts. When the ribbon falls off, belief has it, the wish will be granted. Visitors are also encouraged to submit their own wishes, scrawled on museum-provided paper. Hundreds of wishes are gathered from the walls (and online) every day; at the end of the show, Neuenschwander will pick her favorites and feature them in a future exhibit. The competition is stiff, but hope springs eternal, right?

While you're there, be sure to pop by the New Museum Store, home to some seriously covetable jewelry. On our radar: Hand-numbered, walnut-etched feather earrings and necklaces by Free Time Industries ($64-$128), and Apsaras Playground New York's limited-edition NEBURA necklaces, which feature a single dandelion seed suspended in resin. It's $80 for the tiny tube, which comes strung on a sterling silver chain, or $72 if you sign up for a New Museum membership.