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Gallery Facade

Image courtesy of Caroline Van Hoek 

KR: Your gallery is located in a space that looks as though it’s still a humble food market. How does the everyday nature of the grocery store reflect the subtleties and universality of artworks in contemporary jewelry?

CVH: Humble is not an aspect I saw in it first although there is a lot of humbleness involved as well !

I recognized going to this kind of shop with my mother and seeing the owner taking extra care of her, she was never the big supermarket kind. He knew what kind of apples she wanted; he knew she liked her tomatoes in this way and not another way. He knew when he could have a season specialty which one he could put aside for her. He would carry it out, keeps things aside. Everything was stacked high and all over and he could still find exactly what he needed. This is the similarity with the current activity of the place. It occurred naturally to my mind, without thinking.

Do you see the gallery as an artwork in and of itself?

I never did, although people start to know of it as “the grocery store” and either they understand or it makes them think and hopefully they get it.

You are also located in an area with other contemporary art galleries. What is the overall reception of your space and of the work you carry in relation to those other galleries? Is it considered equal to the art world on a local level?

Here as for any other jewelry gallery in the world, jewelry is starting to gain more attention in general as a collector’s item. Most people do not know there is something else than high jewelry, couture jewelry, artist jewelry or fashion jewelry.  All the types can exist with each other.  The most important factor in this comparison is “qualitative” jewelry. “Qualitative” jewelry will gain attention and rise in value, whether it is a nice Cartier piece, a great Chanel bracelet or a Picasso pendant.

Just like many others in our field, it seems that a big part of your mission as an art-jewelry gallerist is to show jewelry from different perspectives than most people outside our sphere are used to. Would you like to speak a bit about your writing projects and what kind of language you’ve needed to develop to do so?

There is not one single answer to that. It’s like when people buy art, some want a whole explanation, some others just want to look at a piece and fall in love with it. As a gallery you feel when is the right level of education necessary for which audience.

What is the importance of travel to your gallery and attending international events like Design Miami for example; events not solely related to contemporary jewelry? 

When I started there were some established galleries around. Brussels and Amsterdam are only two hours away from each other. You have to take your ball and find new friends to play with.

How often do you find yourself giving a comprehensive explanation for the type of gallery you have; Would you define your role as a gallerist somewhat similar to that of an educator?

Yes, every day, all day. To everyone, schools, clients and press.

Recently you have celebrated the 5th anniversary of your gallery. Can you talk a bit about the exhibition, This was 2007?

It is a very personal exhibition and based upon a very limited time frame. It just illustrates how little my environment was when I opened the gallery. It shows work from people I was in touch with, or work that impressed me and work from some artists with whom we work now. It is only a recollection of some interaction. Not a selection based on quality whatsoever.

What would you say has been accomplished since you’ve opened your doors?

Too much to say ! I had nothing and knew nothing, no experience in galleries, no clients, no acquaintances in Brussels, nothing.

What should we look for in the next five years to come? 

Hmm, I am dying for some more organization and structure, the rest is a secret :0)

—–

Caroline Van Hoek is a contemporary art jewelry gallery located in Brussels, Belgium. 

“Open since 04.10.2007.
Previously a grocery store, the outside facade has been left exactly as it was, to honor what it represents. The local shop around the corner, the close contact with the clientele, the seasonal availability of goods, the limited number of groceries and the respect for the individuality.”

Please visit the gallery website —> here

NoteThis interview was conducted in the fall of 2012 and originally destined for AJF, facilitated by Susan Cummins.  Alternatively, ≥ has the pleasure of posting it and thanks Caroline for her participation. 

The following is taken from the full text of “the Sociology of Georg Simmel,” translated by Kurt H. Wolff, and first published as “Exkurs über den Schmuck” in 1908

The vast majority of what Simmel says here is still quite relevant… with the exception of one fundament; see if you can find it. 

I pointed out earlier that the secret also operates as an adorning possession and value of the personality. This fact involves 
the contradiction that what recedes before the consciousness of
 the others and is hidden from them, is to be emphasized in their
 consciousness; that one should appear as a particularly note-
worthy person precisely through what one conceals. But this
 contradiction proves, not only that the need for sociological attention may indeed resort to intrinsically contradictory means, 
but also that those against whom the means are actually directed 
in the given case, satisfy this need by bearing the cost of the 
superiority. They do so with a mixture of readiness and dislike; but, in practice, they nevertheless supply the desired recognition. It may thus be appropriate to show that, although apparently the sociological counter-pole of secrecy, adornment has,
 in fact, a societal significance with a structure analogous to that 
of secrecy itself. It is the nature and function of adornment to 
lead the eyes of others upon the adorned. Although, in this 
sense, it is the antagonist of secrecy, not even the secret (it will
 be remembered) is without the function of personal emphasis.
 And this, adornment, too, exercises, by mixing superiority to 
others with dependence upon them, and their good will with
 their envy. It does so in a manner which, as a sociological form
 of interaction, requires its special investigation.

5. Adornment

Man’s desire to please his social environment contains two 
contradictory tendencies, in whose play and counter play in
general, the relations among individuals take their course. On
 the one hand, it contains kindness, a desire of the individual to 
give the other joy; but on the other hand, there is the wish for 
this joy and these “favors” to flow back to him, in the form of 
recognition and esteem, so that they be attributed to his personality as values. Indeed, this second need is so intensified that 
it militates against the altruism of wishing to please: by means
 of this pleasing, the individual desires to distinguish himself
before others, and to be the object of an attention that others do
 not receive. This may even lead him to the point of wanting to 
be envied. Pleasing may thus become a means of the will to 
power: some individuals exhibit the strange contradiction that 
they need those above whom they elevate themselves by life 
and deed, for they build their own self-feeling upon the sub
ordinates’ realization that they are subordinate.

The meaning of adornment finds expression in peculiar 
elaborations of these motives, in which the external and internal
 aspects of their forms are interwoven. This meaning is to single 
the personality out, to emphasize it as outstanding in some sense but not by means of power manifestations, not by anything
that externally compels the other, but only through the pleasure 
which is engendered in him and which, therefore, still has some 
voluntary element in it. One adorns oneself for oneself, but can
 do so only by adornment for others. It is one of the strangest
 sociological combinations that an act, which exclusively serves 
the emphasis and increased significance of the actor, nevertheless attains this goal just as exclusively in the pleasure, in the 
visual delight it offers to others, and in their gratitude. For 
even the envy of adornment only indicates the desire of the envious person to win like recognition and admiration for him-
self; his envy proves how much he believes these values to be 
connected with the adornment. Adornment is the egoistic element as such: it singles out its wearer, whose self-feeling it
em bodies and increases at the cost of others (for, the same adornment of all would no longer adorn the individual). But, at the
same time, adornment is altruistic: its pleasure is designed for 
the others, since its owner can enjoy it only insofar as he mirrors 
himself in them; he renders the adornment valuable only 
through the reflection of this gift of his. Everywhere, aesthetic 
formation reveals that life orientations, which reality juxtaposes
as mutually*alien, or even pits against one another as hostile, are,
 in fact, intimately interrelated. In the same way, the aesthetic 
phenomenon of adornment indicates a point within sociological interaction the arena of man’s being-for-himself and being-
for-the-other where these two opposite directions are mutually 
dependent as ends and means.

Adornment intensifies or enlarges the impression of the personality by operating as a sort of radiation emanating from it.
 For this reason, its materials have always been shining metals
and precious stones. They are “adornment” in a narrower sense 
than dress and coiffure, although these, too, “adorn.” One may
 speak of human radioactivity in the sense that every individual
is surrounded by a larger or smaller sphere of significance radiating from him; and everybody else, who deals with him, is immersed in this sphere. It is an inextricable mixture of physiological and psychic elements: the sensuously observable influences 
which issue from an individual in the direction of his environment also are, in some fashion, the vehicles of a spiritual fulguration. They operate as the symbols of such a fulguration even
where, in actuality, they are only external, where no suggestive
power or significance of the personality flows through them.
 The radiations of adornment, the sensuous attention it provokes,
 supply the personality with such an enlargement or intensification of its sphere: the personality, so to speak, is more when it is 
adorned.

Inasmuch as adornment usually is also an object of considerable value, it is a synthesis of the individual’s having and 
being; it thus transforms mere possession into the sensuous and
emphatic perceivability of the individual himself. This is not 
true of ordinary dress which, neither in respect of having nor 
of being, strikes one as an individual particularity; only the 
fancy dress, and above all, jewels, which gather the personality’s
 value and significance of radiation as if in a focal point, allow the
 mere having of the person to become a visible quality of its
being. And this is so, not although adornment is something 
”superfluous,” but precisely because it is. The necessary is much 
more closely connected with the individual; it surrounds his
 existence with a narrower periphery. The superfluous “flows
over,” that is, it flows to points which are far removed from its
 origin but to which it still remains tied: around the precinct of
 mere necessity, it lays a vaster precinct which, in principle, is 
limitless. According to its very idea, the superfluous contains 
no measure. The free and princely character of our being increases in the measure in which we add superfluousness to our 
having, since no extant structure, such as is laid down by necessity, imposes any limiting norm upon it.

This very accentuation of the personality, however, is 
achieved by means of an impersonal trait. Everything that
”adorns” man can be ordered along a scale in terms of its close-
ness to the physical body. The “closest” adornment is typical
 of nature peoples: tattooing. The opposite extreme is represented by metal and stone adornments, which are entirely unindividual and can be put on by everybody. Between these two
 stands dress, which is not so inexchangeable and personal as 
tattooing, but neither so un-individual and separable as jewelry, 
whose very elegance lies in its impersonality. That this nature
 of stone and metal solidly closed within itself, in no way alluding to any individuality; hard, unmodifiable is yet forced to
serve the person, this is its subtlest fascination. What is really 
elegant avoids pointing to the specifically individual; it always 
lays a more general, stylized, almost abstract sphere around man
 which, of course, prevents no finesse from connecting the
 general with the personality. That new clothes are particularly
 elegant is due to their being still “stiff”; they have not yet adjusted to the modifications of the individual body as fully as 
older clothes have, which have been worn, and are pulled and
 pinched by the peculiar movements of their wearer thus completely revealing his particularity. This “newness,” this lack
 of modification by individuality, is typical in the highest measure of metal jewelry: it is always new; in untouchable coolness,
 it stands above the singularity and destiny of its wearer. This is 
not true of dress. A long-worn piece of clothing almost grows to
the body; it has an intimacy that militates against the very 
nature of elegance, which is something for the “others,” a social
 notion deriving its value from general respect.

If jewelry thus is designed to enlarge the individual by adding something super-individual which goes out to all and is
 noted and appreciated by all, it must, beyond any effect that its 
material itself may have, possess style. Style is always something 
general. It brings the contents of personal life and activity into 
a form shared by many and accessible to many. In the case of 
a work of art, we are the less interested in its style, the greater
 the personal uniqueness and the subjective life expressed in it. 
For, it is with these that it appeals to the spectator’s personal 
core, too of the spectator who, so to speak, is alone in the whole
 world with this work of art. But of what we call handicraft 
which because of its utilitarian purpose appeals to a diversity of
 men we request a more general and typical articulation. We
 expect not only that an individuality with its uniqueness be
voiced in it, but a broad, historical or social orientation and 
temper, which make it possible for handicraft to be incorporated
 into the life-systems of a great many different individuals. It is
 the greatest mistake to think that, because it always functions 
as the adornment of an individual, adornment must be an individual work of art. Quite the contrary: because it is to serve 
the individual, it may not itself be of an individual nature as little as the piece of furniture on which we sit, or the eating 
utensil which we manipulate, may be individual works of art.
 The work of art cannot, in principle, be incorporated into an-
other life it is a self-sufficient world. By contrast, all that occupies the larger sphere around the life of the individual, must
 surround it as if in ever wider concentric spheres that lead back
 to the individual or originate from him. The essence of stylization is precisely this dilution of individual poignancy, this generalization beyond the uniqueness of the personality which, 
nevertheless, in its capacity of base or circle of radiation, carries 
or absorbs the individuality as if in a broadly flowing river. For
 this reason, adornment has always instinctively been shaped in
 a relatively severe style.

Besides its formal stylization, the material means of its social 
purpose is its brilliance. By virtue of this brilliance, its wearer 
appears as the center of a circle of radiation in which every close-
by person, every seeing eye, is caught. As the flash of the precious 
stone seems to be directed at the other like the lightning of
the glance the eye addresses to him it carries the social meaning
 of jewels, the being-for-the-other, which returns to the subject
 as the enlargement of his own sphere of significance. The radii 
of this sphere mark the distance which jewelry creates between 
men “I have something which you do not have.” But, on the
other hand, these radii not only let the other participate: they 
shine in his direction; in fact, they exist only for his sake. By 
virtue of their material, jewels signify, in one and the same act, 
an increase in distance and a favor.

For this reason, they are of such particular service to vanity 
which needs others in order to despise them. This suggests the 
profound difference which exists between vanity and haughty
 pride: pride, whose selfconsciousness really rests only upon 
itself, ordinarily disdains “adornment” in every sense of the
word. A word must also be added here, to the same effect, on
the significance of “genuine” material. The attraction of the
”genuine,” in all contexts, consists in its being more than its 
immediate appearance, which it shares with its imitation. Un-
like its falsification, it is not something isolated; it has its roots 
in a soil that lies beyond its mere appearance, while the un-
authentic is only what it can be taken for at the moment. The “genuine” individual, thus, is the person on whom one can
rely even when he is out of one’s sight. In the case of jewelry, 
this more-than-appearance is its value, which cannot be guessed 
by being looked at, but is something that, in contrast to skilled 
forgery, is added to the appearance. By virtue of the fact that 
this value can always be realized, that it is recognized by all, tha t
it possesses a relative timelessness, jewelry becomes part of a
super-contingent, super-personal value structure. Talmi-gold
and similar trinkets are identical with what they momentarily
do for their wearer; genuine jewels are a value that goes beyond 
this; they have their roots in the value ideas of the whole social
 circle and are ramified through all of it. Thus, the charm and
 the accent they give the individual who wears them, feed on this
 super-individual soil. Their genuineness makes their aesthetic
 value which, too, is here a value “for the others” a symbol 
of general esteem, and of membership in the total social value
system.

There once existed a decree in medieval France which prohibited all persons below a certain rank to wear gold ornaments.
 The combination which characterizes the whole nature of adornment unmistakably lives in this decree: in adornment, the socio-
logical and Aesthetic emphasis upon the personality fuses as if
 in a focus; being-for-oneself and being-for-others become reciprocal cause and effect in it. Aesthetic excellence and the right to
charm and please, are allowed, in this decree, to go only to a
point fixed by the individual’s social sphere of significance. It is 
precisely in this fashion that one adds, to the charm which adornment gives one’s whole appearance, the sociological charm of 
being, by virtue of adornment, a representative of one’s group,
 with whose whole significance one is “adorned.” It is as if the
 significance of his status, symbolized by jewels, returned to the 
individual on the very beams which originate in him and en-
large his sphere of impact. Adornment, thus, appears as the
 means by which his social power or dignity is transformed into
visible, personal excellence.

Centripetal and centrifugal tendencies, finally, appear to 
be fused in adornment in a specific form, in the following 
information. Among nature peoples, it is reported, women’s
 private property generally develops later than that of men and, originally, and often exclusively, refers to adornment. By contrast, the personal property of the male usually begins with 
weapons. This reveals his active and more aggressive nature: 
the male enlarges his personality sphere without waiting for
 the will of others. In the case of the more passive female nature,
 this result although formally the same in spite of all external 
differences depends more on the others’ good will. Every property is an extension of personality; property is that which obeys 
our wills, that in which our egos express, and externally realize,
 themselves. This expression occurs, earliest and most completely,
 in regard to our body, which thus is our first and most unconditional possession. In the adorned body, we possess more; if we 
have the adorned body at our disposal, we are masters over more 
and nobler things, so to speak. It is, therefore, deeply significant
 that bodily adornment becomes private property above all: It 
expands the ego and enlarges the sphere around us which is 
filled with our personality and which consists in the pleasure and
the attention of our environment. This environment looks with
 much less attention at the unadorned (and thus as if less “expanded”) individual, and passes by without including him. The 
fundamental principle of adornment is once more revealed in
 the fact that, under primitive conditions, the most outstanding 
possession of women became that which, according to its very 
idea, exists only for others, and which can intensify the value 
and significance of its wearer only through the recognition that 
flows back to her from these others. In an aesthetic form, adornment creates a highly specific synthesis of the great convergent
 and divergent forces of the individual and society, namely, the 
elevation of the ego through existing for others, and the elevation of existing for others through the emphasis and extension of 
the ego. This aesthetic form itself stands above the contrasts between individual human strivings. They find, in adornment,
 not only the possibility of undisturbed simultaneous existence,
 but the possibility of a reciprocal organization that, as anticipation and pledge of their deeper metaphysical unity, transcends
 the disharmony of their appearance.

A Wrap Up:  The Opulent Project

By Misha Kahn

Apologies for the time lapse on this review; in movie like form, Kellie and I ran into each other at JFK, and I got bumped and rerouted to go with her to New Orleans for Christmas – so the distraction was mutual, and now fully rested, we’re ready to blog! 

wallpaperimage2

As always, there’s something wonderful and challenging about viewing work from younger artists. Usually the challenge is that you start striking connections between your own work and your peers with whom you have a charged relationship, unsure if the direction is valid or progressive.  In this case, Meg Drinkwater and Erin Gardner’s reverence to antiquated ornament is one I can relate to and struggle with myself.  In contemporizing their chosen forms they bring in some exciting new ideas about how jewelry fits into American society.  The work steers clear of gaudy – and even finds a way to present ornament as non-ornament in a sense (hint: paint the wall to match your own ornament to achieve this affect at home!)

The wallpapered wall in a print of a patterned cube in perspective – a familiar pattern of Italian marble floors and a reoccurring visual reference of the likes of Babetto and other Padovan goldsmiths – begs the question of whether the wall itself was as singular piece, or simply a clever way to display the scattered and camouflaged pieces. This optical challenge played into one of my favorite types of unconventional display in the field; I like to call this “find the jewelry,” where the viewer is forced to approach and interact more closely with objects through some sort of slight trickery.  With jewelry’s small scale, it can be hard to draw people in close enough to really examine a singular piece individually.  With that said, Drinkwater and Gardner’s installation was a fairly effective ploy to get the viewer to look more closely at each jewel. Like chameleons, earrings were powder coated and painted with the same geometric pattern of the wallpaper.

The choice of this almost Escher-esque parquet as a two-dimensional formal reference was strong, as the work feels young and a bit op-arty even though it’s a much older pattern, allowing it to be paired more logically with the silhouettes of the jewelry.

During the show opening, Erin swooped in to show me how the necklaces and earrings can share parts, with pendants from one necklace able to de-attach and clip onto the companion earrings.  Another necklace had a brooch pin on the back with a detachable chain.

This transformation was both engaging and humorously aware of the current economic recession (not sure that contemporary jewelry and the economy are so entangled, but at least it’s paying attention). Somehow this sentiment of frugality also leads into the thought that to own one necklace or ring from the wall was to own part of something larger.  No one wearer could solely own the entirety of this work – one has to willingly accept that your piece relates to others, as all the pieces share parts of the larger pattern.  At least to my naïve eyes, I think American culture is becoming slightly more okay with a transforming sense of the individual. The new individual understands their uniqueness through a lens of being part of a larger group – which is how the jewelry on this wall related to each other.

The plastic laser cut earrings also on exhibition exist in an interesting place in the context of the high priced world of art jewelry; a work you can take home for around $30 shares a roof with other objects that might be worth more than any of the cars I’ve ever owned.  THIS ALWAYS WORKS, and here’s why:  a true bred American is only capable of thinking about whether they like something through imagining owning it – and when one can actually own something, it makes the imagination of owning the other, more expensive works, more vivid.  Of course in the design world, this is more expected, with Droog offering easily produced objects for 20 bucks alongside their more in depth conceptual work, or Murikami opening a Louis Vuitton store inside LACMA alongside his “artwork.”

I think the component which can make this relationship stronger, is when the two feel like they have a sibling relationship – where one feels related but slightly less developed.  And in this case, and even though the ties between ornament and silhouette where there, I wasn’t really able to figure out how the two types of pieces went together.  Visually, the plastic earrings (hung on a white wall) presented vivid colors against a blank, while alternatively, the contrast between the visual delicacy of the camouflage work drew the eye in to the other, and what seemed like the less exciting wall overall… I’m still pondering if the two relate in a really logical way or really if they have to.

I will also briefly mention that although the delicate lines were well executed, the modern silhouettes of classical jewelry ain’t the most revolutionary of ideas (see Islay Taylor, Constanze Schreiber, etc).

Perhaps my favorite piece, which I think did exist between the two semi-disparate projects, was a pair of earrings made of dipped clear plastic. These magical earrings reexamined the idea of the historical silhouette and added a dash of industrial design fin model, slightly asymmetrical and drippy.  Basically each of these elements are a semi-surefire way to make any object visually appealing; this sounds like knock against the Opulent Project, but really it isn’t; it’s good and simple decision making. All together, the effect adds up to an enticing ice-palace treat; perhaps even a humorous nod to the camouflage wall as well, as a see-through earring might just reflect the color of the wearers ear and become a bit surreal.

If you also look forward to seeing what the Opulent Project will come up with in the future, follow them here: http://theopulentproject.blogspot.com

To view photos from the exhibition opening, please visit Gallery Loupe’s Facebook page —> here

Misha Kahn,  RISD BFA Furniture ’11 and Fulbright Fellow, Israel 2011-12, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

To see a previous review written by Misha, please click ——> here

THIS IS A MUST READ!!!!!!!!

THE FOLLOWING WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN METALSMITH MAGAZINE IN 2006 AS A RESPONSE TO A QUESTIONNAIRE SENT BY THE ACG AND WRITTEN BY ARTIST, BENJAMIN LIGNEL. 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

What does Contemporary Jewellery mean? 


Not very much, to anyone outside the profession; but the question is a helpful reminder that:

1/ in most countries, the debate will never find an audience outside the actual community that launched it;


2/ this is a simplistic label, falling short of the profession’s complex heritage and range of interests.

But it’s a tricky one, and I tried to list some of the ways one could answer it:




Contemporary Jewellery is a type of practice – understood as the contemporary offspring of a craft-based design activity that finds its origin in medieval workshops. Such a definition stresses contemporary jewellery’s historical past, and finds antecedents in the British and American Arts & Crafts movements, the renewed late XIXth century interest in manual skills (as a last stand against industrialisation), and the emergence of radical jewellery movements in the 60s: it underlines the notions of individuality, craftsmanship, and its troubled relationship to the production mainstream;

or a type of object: poised between high-street jewellery and art (the former’s glorified other, the latter’s poor relative), we know what it’s not (‘just’ manufactured artefacts for wearing), and what it wants to be (the expression of individual talent that reflects on, and sometimes influences, contemporary culture), much less what it is. 
A few distinctive characteristics, however, seem to be beyond debate: the human body as a general working area; an open attitude to methods and material that echoes art’s own agenda, complicated by the notion of wearability; the distinctiveness we associate with individual expression; and an emancipation from consumer goods’ vocation to ‘just’ satisfy consumer desires.



It could also be defined as a market (I follow here the argument that cultural artefacts are defined less by methods of production than by distribution, accessibility and ultimately, potential impact on a larger consumer base). In most countries, a limited number of galleries take care of both distribution and promotion – while the designer-maker is expected (if (s)he wants to make a living) to be represented by at least five galleries, and complement consignment sales by direct, off-the-anvil transactions. From my point of view, the Contemporary Jewellery market works in ways similar to the art market, but on a scale so small, that its lack of visibility questions its existence.

So then: most jewellers would agree that Contemporary Jewellery is a fast-evolving profession at a crossroad between craft, design, and art, currently ridged by identity concerns. However, I think that the problem, rather than one of identity, is one of image. Although the lack of an established definition has contributed to an extremely rich range of output -personal answers to a collective question- it seems that diversity stands in the way of a more cohesive front, one that would focus on explaining to people that there is a life after Cartier, Pomellato and Tiffany’s. And the unsuspecting public still lumps the practice together with its craft-based past, judges its production on a par with high-end (or any other) jewellery, and considers artistic ambition rather like a presumptuous fancy (unless one equates ‘artistic’ with ‘skilled’, ‘meaningful’ or ‘committed to self-expression’).



This happens at least for two reasons:

Firstly, there are not enough of us to rally a larger population to Contemporary Jewellery’s standards: exposure is limited by the output (there are comparatively few jewellery design programs, fewer graduates that stick to the trade, and not many pieces produced per year per jeweller). This scarcity of active jewellery makers is further complicated by our cultural antagonism with serial reproduction -and therefore, bigger distribution (1). A cynical bystander would add: this is a micro-profession, which means little appeal to the press, anaemic cultural budgets, no specific courses in the history of Contemporary Jewellery (to my knowledge), and therefore, no history. As a result, Contemporary Jewellery is always deemed a subsidiary activity, on the margin of mainstream jewellery creation. 
Secondly, designer-makers are by nature a/o trade, uncommunicative, or certainly not prone to enthusiastic pamphlet scribbling. Who’s ever heard of Contemporary Jewellery, outside its confidential network of galleries and specialised clientèle?

The situation, and this is my point, demands more than just communication: instead of shunning assertive promotion/information strategies (for fear of contamination?), we must resist inertia from within and without that confine Contemporary Jewellery to its ill-defined (but restricting) marginal position, and explore new means of proliferation.

So we should communicate more. And explain our intentions. But in the end, let us not be too intent on defining our practice as one thing only: if anything, I would even drop the ‘Contemporary’ or ‘Studio’ used to qualify this jewellery: whatever specific meaning it may have had is now superseded by a vague sense of institutionalised ‘otherness’.



Let’s be proud, and call it jewelry.

THIS TEXT IS LINKED ON THE BLOG ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE PAGE UNDER PRACTICAL INFO…

IF YOU ARE IN OR NEAR THE PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND AREA, PLEASE COME AND SUPPORT RISD’S JEWELRY + METALSMITHING DEPARTMENT BY VISITING AND PURCHASING SOME AMAZING (AND AFFORDABLE!) JEWELRY AT THE POP UP SHOP DURING THE DEPARTMENT’S TRIENNIAL EXHIBITION AT WOODS-GERRY GALLERY!!!!  CURRENT RISD STUDENTS, FACULTY AND ALUM ARE PARTICIPATING, INCLUDING:

TRACY STEEPYKEVIN HUGHESJIMIN PARKSARA GLABERSONANDREA WAGNERELA BAUERJOHN PRIP, MIELLE HARVEY, LORI TALCOTT, JOHAN VAN ASWEGEN, SISSI WESTERBERG, MALLORY WESTON, YOSHIE EDNA, MANUELA JIMENEZ, KATELIN GIBBS, ME,  AND MANY MANY OTHERS!

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 10TH AND SUNDAY NOVEMBER 11TH ARE THE VERY LAST DAYS!!! 

LINKS:

J+M FACEBOOK PAGE

SHOW ALBUM

SHOW FLYER

RISD J+M SITE

DEPARTMENT SITE

The following is a delightful review of Gallery Loupe’s recent show, The Birthday Boys by ≥’s first guest writer (!), Misha Kahn. Please see the previous post for photos. 

Kellie was visiting me in NYC, over at my house trying to convince me to get on approximately 15 trains to go look at tiny things in Montclair, New Jersey.  It was one of those Saturday afternoons that puts you into a sleepy daze, the kind that doesn’t make you want to trek out into the boonies for really anything one ain’t able to afford.  But after a bit of convincing I came along –  I’m not entirely unfamiliar with contemporary jewelry, but my understanding of it is largely through an easy comparison to my own playing field – furniture.  It’s a similar set of problems, mostly peoples’ curiously rigid logic that design or craft or art should all get processed in different parts of the brain.  Sure, aesthetics can translate but at the end of the day that little pin-back or those four legs force it into some other part of cerebral processing.  And, rather hypocritically, I process most of these types of “craft” media in terms of whether or not I want to own it, wear it, or put it in my house.  Unlike most people though my fantasy shopping isn’t limited by comfort or practicality or really any pragmatic concerns that the mainstream would use to evaluate “design” objects.  

Let me tell you, I wanted everything at this show.  Now, let me tell you why:

The Birthday Boys’ work was divided diagonally down the gallery, between a line of optically perplexing mirrored structures with delicate metal feelers on one side and little nuggets of perfection on the other, part memphis part maquette part tiny silly color texture pattern blocked objet d’brooch.

Peter Skubic’s mirrored mini chosms where like tiny little fun houses for your lapel.   The way they reflected your face, fragmenting it and introducing your neighbors faces and body parts, re- configuring them felt reminiscent of a Hockney joiner or cubist painting.  This way of seeing makes so much sense, because we never really see anything without processing it, introducing our own knowledge and memories of what surrounds us.  These brooches function as glasses for seeing how we see –  allowing us to see the room unpeiced, before our brain assembles these parts.  The delicate feelers reaching out had the effect of an antanea, making sure the wearer didn’t bump into anything too close, but it’s easily altered forms become a memory of the space that the object has encountered, recording each of its run ins with its new, altered shapes.  The pieces become a collection of memories, those recorded, and those of the moment, deconstructed and put on view.  This to me seemed a more than valid justification for making a slew of objects that for all intensive purposes where quite similar.  Because they were about this alteration of space, and this shattered view they worked more strongly in this extensive line up.

Although within contemporary jewelry there is no surprise when an object falls outside the mainstream convention of sparkly/shiny/precious, and since the other Birthday Boy was working with such high, reflective sheen, Thomas Gentilles felt extra fresh.  Because of this, his work seemed even more reminiscent of the Memphis response to the largely chromed, sleek furniture of the early 80’s.  His use of color, mixing pattern and play between angular construction and more imaginative shape and proportion added to this connection.  However, on this scale the play between shape and pattern became far more engaging.  As much as I hate to ever call things architectural, being as unimaginative as saying “it’s nice”- these brooches had some qualities of miniatures that forced this connection.  Trying to imagine them blown up I was displeased, but at their current size, with the detailed prints of shattered eggshell they felt like pocket size maps to imaginary worlds.  It was as though he discovered some secret area where a miniature only works at that size – a rarity in the object world where scale is frequently arbitrary or as large as the market will allow.  In this brooches he created the effect of a window – functioning in such an abstract way – that one might be looking at Gentille’s world from a 10,000 foot altitude or standing so close its about to go out of focus.

Gentille’s play of scale and distance in conjunction with Skubics alteration of vision and memory made a show that left you in a blissful imaginative daze.  Wandering back into the streets of suburban New Jersey feeling adjacent to standard space and time — all conjured by something to wear that on a Lapel – that is really something.

Misha Kahn,  RISD BFA Furniture ’11 and Fulbright Fellow, Israel 2011-12, lives and works in Brooklyn (surprise!), New York. 

THE BIRTHDAY BOYS – Thomas Gentille and Peter SkubicGallery Loupe in Montcair, New Jersey, Oct 09 – Oct 30, 2012

the following photos are from the opening on oct. 20th

more info to come about the pieces on display ! 

both artists will be speaking at Brooklyn Metal Works on Oct. 21st. click —–> here for more info!

A unique example of jewelry being accepted as art…. or at the very least, snuck into the Met via an acquisition by the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art !

From the 92Y blog, May 2011: “Wahl was trained as a jeweler and sculptor, and started this series of drawings as a response to the launch of his own jewelry line. He noticed that some people were puzzled that he creates both sculpture and jewelry, as though, he says, they were oil and water, instead of being linked to and informing each other. Looking at some pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry one day, he realized that many of the pieces, designed entirely in black and intended for adornment during the long period mourners were not supposed to wear gold, silver or bright colors, looked like sculpture. “I thought I’d try drawing them on a much larger scale,” Jonathan explains. “If they were blown up that large, they would read as sculptures, not as brooches, and people would see the common ground between the two art forms.”

Read full text here: Being Featured In The Met: ‘Like Receiving An Academy Award’ – 92Y Blog – 92nd Street Y – New York, NY.

Wahl’s work is characterized by a technical brilliance, allowing the artist to replicate a specific aesthetic found in the history of jewelry adornment. His scale shift indicates that a greater importance should be given to the chosen reproductions, forcing the viewer to pay attention to detail and appreciate the forms. The success of his work does not just rely on Wahl’s drawing skills, but it’s also due to his choice selection of era. Victorian mourning jewelry is forever contemporary, made timeless by its facets, symmetry, use of chains, and of course, its jet blackness. Wahl’s hand skills reflect those necessary to actually create a piece of jewelry like those found in his drawings, closing the gap between art and jewelry’s alleged differences, while indirectly educating the general public about moments in the history of jewelry. These drawings may spark conversation and interest into the world of contemporary jewelry with a question as simple as, what else is out there today?  For Wahl, and in this case also for the Met, jewelry ≥ art. 

photos taken from artist’s website 

Dear Readers,

I’m reposting my review of Alchimia’s graduation show (it was first published on the Alchimia school blog) so that I can include more photos to better illustrate some points and to show a bit of the opening from last June. PLEASE ENJOY.

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WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU WANT TO WEAR A LEMON? 

A review of PURUS, graduation exhibition of Alchimia Jewelry School, Florence, Italy

Multiple yellow citruses suspended in the foreground of woolly red and fleshy pink masses only scarcely hint to the world in which these puzzling objects belong. The hanging work seen through the large window of Alchimia acts as a mysterious aperitivo to the average passerby surely stumped by the question “what is this I’m looking at?”

To those of us familiar with the world of contemporary jewelry, hearing questions like this is common coming from others unaware of this unique and expressive form of art. But interestingly, even to the most acquainted sets of eyeballs, most of the Alchimia students’ pieces begged for similar inquiry. Due to the diverse content and spatial limitations inherent to graduation exhibitions, finding an appropriate method for review is a bit tricky. Unlike a normal group show, where collected work circles around a central theme, Alchimia’s PURUS, a title that mirrors the mutual curiousness of the content, showcases small collections of eleven very different emerging artists.

Upon entering, the gaze is focused straight ahead. Angular white tables hang from above, covered with what from a distance looks like delicious confections of white, light blues and soft pinks. Before the first table is reached, attention is indirectly diverted to the coat racks to the left. A double take is needed before realizing that the exhibition’s only true installation is what hangs on the wall.

The series of Izabella Petrut (Romania) is a self-proclaimed love story retold by dismembered roller blades and skating paraphernalia–turned jewelry objects. Pinned to and draped over similar colored clothing and casually thrown about denim, the work in hues of slate, cold blues and off-whites is tangled in disguise, as Petrut’s series seems at first to be hardly sentimental. Choosing titles for her shoe lace-wrapped wheel brooches like “sunrise on the beach…” and “the first morning…” the question that remains is whether the work really does retell the love story that the pieces represent, or if we can accept and maybe even enjoy the visual disconnect between object and intention.  The especially flesh-toned wheel brooch (installed pinned to a shirt draped over a stool) starts to bridge this gap by insinuating a bodily connection. Ultimately, the relative ambition of the installation can be appreciated in comparison to other setups. Petrut’s ability to mirror the subtle yet familiar essence of the physical objects can be thanked for its success. More importantly, Petrut’s series, A Love Story, stays true to the jewelry’s position as the emotional and the everyday, while effectively avoiding aesthetic (but perhaps not verbal) redundancy and trite clichés.

With regard to exhibition install overall, the show starts on a short-lived high note as few other artists were allotted such a generous space for contextual display. Spatial constraints of the room could be partially to blame, certainly. But could it also be due to a lack of consideration and/or demand for an apt theoretical framework to the work? For some artists, perhaps yes. For Patrick Davison (Great Britain) however, his series Talking, isn’t in need of such support. Davison’s pieces stand autonomously on the first of the white tables, paired appropriately with Guilia Savino (Italy) and Weronika Marek (Poland). The series title is a delicate boost to their aesthetic independence –a product of a transcendence of materials (plaster or latex with silver and string) and a continuity of idea that elicits a strong lasting impression. Hot and delicate breath carried through a succession of string lifelines is evidence of a symbiotic relationship where talking is in fact making for Davison.

Davison’s necklaces ask to be picked up for a test of weightiness and to be seen elongated from all sides, not unlike the work of his tablemate, Guilia Savino in her series, Shhh!. It is apparent that both Davison and Savino would have greatly benefited from some room to breathe, as would have Marek. Collectively their subtle natures begin to infiltrate one another, diminishing the three aesthetics and conceptual underpinnings that uniquely demand individual isolation.

A division does endure between these three artists despite the close quarters, characterized by diverse explorations with material. This can be said for most of the Alchimia graduates, yet certain artists more soundly developed profound bodies of work that surpass a reliance on material as concept. How does materiality relate to the overall strength of a piece? Marek’s series, Into Emptiness, is worth mentioning here. The name, the objects—brooches comprised of cold cylinders in softly melting shades of icy blues and whites—and the sentiment all add up; knowing what they are made of is more of an added curiosity than it is crucial.

Across the room on an identical white table, Sam Hamilton’s series, Praise, (paired with the work of Ji Yang Lee, Korea), contributes to the dialogue addressing material strength and meaning. Being one of the more ambitious material explorations presented, it can perhaps be said that she is only getting started. At first it seems Hamilton’s internal and bubbly growth-like resins struggle to rationalize why they need to belong to the world of jewelry at all—yet this thought is quickly confronted after seeing the pieces contextualized. Small photographs of classical statues ornamented with Hamilton’s necklaces and a series of flipbooks showing continuous stages of process accompany the collection. Also thinking about communicative framework like Petrut, Hamilton (Ireland) is the only artist who thought to pair photos with the physical. They are important vestiges like her books, but should have been blown-up and presented as equally valued works. The images are beyond supplemental and positively mimic the praiseful and candidly personal satisfaction that making (and wearing) brings to the maker.

So then what does it really mean to put on an artwork, to adorn oneself with a summary of feelings, past events, ideas? Where can a personal connection be found, between maker and object, or object and future wearer? Some Alchimia graduates were capable of asking and simultaneously answering questions like these; Hamilton’s Praise serves as a humble example. Valentina Caprini (Italy) pushes it further by presenting a fresh take on the fundamental roles of jewelry vs. a devotion to them, successfully achieving equilibrium in her series, Therapy. The distinctive collection, displayed suspended from the ceiling (one of two collections first mentioned seen through the window), is so aptly titled that one can walk away with the word slipping off their tongue without having known it prior. Caprini’s work speaks on multiple levels including reinvention of tradition, making/wearing as healing, self-growth and remembrance, and femininity. The four woven necklaces into which pills have been sewn (and the trio of fleshy brooches) independently possess a strong emotive presence owed to the delicate and deliberate touch of the artist. In addition to a unique tactile quality, Caprini has involved an accessible depth to her work worthy of further contemplation.

Nearby, and in quite a stark contrast, are the dangling lemons by Catalina Gibert Nadal (Spain). Visual impact initially denies their alliance to the jewelry realm, as they seem to function as a sly ploy to get a wider audience through the front door. It works, strangely, and even stranger is why these mysterious lemons (some are brooches, others are long necklaces that would hang past the waist) are objects that someone would want to wear to carry the weight of. This moment of questioning is arguably part of the work itself, which becomes a sophisticated element provided that it’s intentional. In this way, Gibert’s Llimona series is perplexing; a delightful intrigue into the artist’s background and from where came her firm commitment to the citrus.

Located on the second of white tables near the entrance, the culturally referential collection, Sontob, the Korean word for Fingernail, similarly raises questions about the influence of place and why one decides to be adorned with specific things. Dinah Lee’s series (USA) can also be compared to Caprini’s insofar that Lee’s brooches are better synched to the concepts behind jewelry versus the aesthetics that identify it. If one can be convinced that the abstracted imagery denotes more than an empty semblance of a loyalty to heritage, the colorfully rhythmic brooches act as new traditional symbolism reflecting jewelry’s responsibility as a social and cultural signifier.

An initial critique of Lee’s collection would be to say that the presented work feels a bit redundant, or could have been pushed further. Before drawing this conclusion however, it is well worth looking through her published book that each graduate was required to provide as an accompaniment to his or her collection. The books are worth mentioning; some are able to enhance the shown work, as in the case of Andrea Coderch Valor (Spain). Hers is able to enlighten the viewer as to the true intention of her 150 pillowy-sewn flower brooches, each made one day at a time over the course of six months for one specific person. Coderch’s story is half the work itself; her book provides depth and closure to the physical objects installed for exhibition in a grid on its own wall opposite the book display.

More simply, the beautifully shot photographs found in Marek’s book reveal the quieter, poetic details of her pieces that can easily be overlooked in person.

Other books begin to call into question the selection decisions of curator, Christoph Zellweger, by exposing what he decided to include in the show and what he has decided to leave out. For example, some of Davison’s stronger and more varied pieces are excluded, similar to Lee, and the same goes for Anna Helena Van de Pohl de Deus (USA), Lee’s display tablemate. Helena’s exhibited work becomes more so affected after looking through her book. Not only does the book show more interesting works, but it also reveals a disconnect between concept and final product. By including a lot of quotes about talking, silence and language, Helena’s book proposes that the objects for her series, com∙mu∙ni∙ca∙tion, are supposed to stand in for her own communicative inabilities. If they’re meant to speak for her, what do they actually say? Her painterly neckpieces of pinks and natural wood are compositionally pleasing and probably fun to wear. Are these merely visual qualities lessened by the mismatch of object to verbal framework, thus failing to really say anything at all?

When an object strikes the right balance of message and mystery it develops a captivating nature.  In terms of contemporary jewelry, one hopes this balance manifests into a desire to touch and to wear, hence creating a moment of exciting personal connection that characterizes the object’s success. The goal of this review is largely to speak about where in the exhibition this balance can be found so as to respect the dedicated investigations and personal growth (guided by artist and teacher Ruudt Peters) of each Alchimia student mentioned.

It can now also be said that the show’s abstract title, PURUS, Latin for “pure and free from”, ends up being quite a good match. Most of the collections are significantly personal; they are extensions of the individual that qualify a sense of pureness true to the maker, a quality not always found in the world of contemporary jewelry at large. By remaining free from one another and free from material limitations, the name too embodies the search for balance that the majority of graduates were ultimately able to discern.

Alchimia’s PURUS will travel to Joya Contemporary Jewelry week in Barcelona on October 11-13, followed by SIERAAD Art Fair in Amsterdam, November 1-4, 2012. Additionally, the work of Izabella Petrut, Weronika Marek and Dinah Lee will be showcased at Galerie Marzee in Nijmegen, NL for the 2012 International Graduate Show.

Saturday the 9th of June marked the inauguration of 4 Padovani e un Torinese, presented by Maurer Zilioli Contemporary Arts. A humble space in the center of the small and beautiful northern Italian town of Brescia, the gallery is a rare dose of contemporary culture, currently housing what I’ll call today’s traditional in Italian contemporary jewelry and sculpture.

The Padovan representatives were Giampaolo Babetto, Graziano Visintin, Renzo Pasquale and Annamaria Zanella, Bruno Martinazzi from Torino; the five artisti-orafi are legends in the field for those that don’t know. Some of the artists from Padova showcased new works with recognizable or iconic pieces also mixed throughout the gallery. Framed drawings from the research stages of their processes were also hung, acting as their own strong and singular works while simultaneously welcoming the viewer into each artistic process. For me this addition was quite the bonus and pulled the show together by adding substance to the singularity of each sculptural piece. Perhaps it could be even more substantial to outsider perspectives; the drawings act as indicators to thought, research and thorough investigation that suggest the practice of each maker to be similar (if not the same) to methodic visual artists outside of the jewelry sphere.

Pieces by Renzo Pasquale

Pieces of jewelry and drawings were not the only works presented. Works by Zanella and Pasquale took shape in much larger forms, a departure from the formal scale limitations of jewelry objects. Pasquale’s clear acrylic sculptures can be seen as a natural shift, having been known to integrate the material into his previous works in jewelry. Zanella implements a material shift as well as a scale shift in her larger work on display. This literal transition (past brooches take on the exact same formal qualities, Cuore Bionico, 1995) begs the question of whether there is a true difference between what is known as sculpture and certain works in contemporary jewelry like what is seen in this exhibition. The Italian goldsmith/artists are particularly known for their sculptural ties through their tendencies and devotion to geometric abstraction and minimal languages. And although this particular exhibition is at first glance heavily tied to the jewelry world, it doesn’t mean that it’s an entirely complete assessment. Maurer Zilioli after all, is a contemporary art gallery (and also a cultural organization), a bridge builder of sorts, promoting the work in the jewelry field in hopes to give it a higher consideration in the art world. Has it worked?

Sculptures by Pasquale

Sculpture by Zanella

Drawings by Babetto and sculpture by Zanella

While in Brescia I was warmly greeted by Ellen Maurer and Claudio Zilioli and was able to chat with them about the liminal role their gallery plays between the jewelry and fine art world. Although there are no hierarchical distinctions between form and medium in their minds, the majority of Zilioli’s exhibitions are not necessarily related to contemporary works in jewelry. In fact, few of their past exhibitions have actually combined jewelry to visual arts directly, noting Piccole Sculture (with Peter Skubic, Franz Hitzler, Valeriano Trubbiani, Therese Hilbert, Bruny Sartori, and Bruno Martinazzi), and Gente di Mare (David Bielander and Michelle Taylor) as two examples within the last year. A more impressive example of integration can be seen in one of their Schmuck exhibitions in Munich last March with artists Elisabeth Altenburg (Füll RAUM) and Wolfgang Rahs (Projektor Oben Often). When they do have shows exclusively devoted to jewelry, Maurer stated that there is wind of disinclination blowing from certain contemporary art audiences. In their minds, jewelry is separate and is not art, maybe even less than or on rare occasions equal to it.

Drawings by Babetto

Pasquale

Graziano Visintin

Babetto

Visintin

Babetto

Babetto – oldies but goodies

Babetto

Bruno Martinazzi

Martinazzi

Martinazzi

Visintin

Babetto

It’s easy to see that all the works (with the exception of the bigger sculpture pieces) were under glass. Although still well within the realm of “our kind of jewelry” (or contemporary art jewelry… you pick the name), the work coming from the Padovani (and from Martinazzi) is still largely and willingly bound to a material tradition so precious that the pieces really can’t be anywhere other then under the safey of a vitrine. Most the time the pieces are, indeed, made of gold.  Beyond this material fundamental there also lies the considerations for which the pieces are successful singular works, which at the end of the day is slightly more independent of a necessity for the piece to be seen on the body than other categories of contemporary jewelry. In this case, with this type of sculptural work, is the body factor just an encouraged bonus?

To better illustrate what I mean, here is a version of the Jewelry as Art Venn Diagram posted under the COSMOLOGY section at the very top of the page where I have isolated the Italian artists in order to see how they approach their work. Almost all of the artists are categorized in the Jewelry as Sculptural Object sphere (click on cosmology to see the full context).

The glass vitrine continues to be utilized as one of the only practical modes for display when focusing especially on this type of contemporary jewelry. The eye can still move around the object (although it’s a bit limited) and if in a gallery, there is indeed a gallerist available to show you the piece more intimately so that the light may move through it and the tactile physical experience appreciated. When asked, Ellen said ever so fittingly that the most important action to take in the promotion of contemporary jewelry was to simply wear the work. “I really insist on this fact. We need collectors. We need them to wear it. You have… well, you have one thing (addressing me). You don’t have anything (addressing Graziano Visintin). We need people to wear jewelry, because most people don’t wear jewelry. This is one of the most important media for propaganda. Absolutely.”

At the opening Ellen could be seen wearing a very large and very gold necklace by Bruno Martinazzi. At Maurer Zilioli, jewelry ≥ visual art.

Ellen Mauer Zilioli (in blue), Annamaria Zanella (to her right) and Renzo Pasquale

download the press release <——

This evening was the inauguration of Purus, Alchimia Contemporary Jewelry School’s graduate exhibition. I’m off to Amsterdam tomorrow, but wanted to give you a peek of the opening and to announce the three exclusive picks of Marie-José an den Hout of Galerie Marzee to be included in an upcoming international graduate show.

 

Weronika Marek

Dinah Lee

and Izabella Petrut

MORE TO COME

If one was to compare the display conventions of the Pinakothek’s contemporary jewelry collection to that of other international art museums, there is an obvious standard. Although the Pinakothek’s devoted environment is extremely spacious and impressive, the shared standard is still a banality that unfortunately extends its reach all too often. Whether elevated off the ground on pedestals or vertically assembled against a wall, seeing works in jewelry behind glass is almost always the norm (the MFA Boston, MAD NYC, the V&A in London, click —> here for a nice video about the Pinakothek’s collection…). It can be said that the usually plentiful pieces that make up a series for exhibition have to be installed; the space is curated in a straightforward manner that normally remains indifferent to the work and its ideas as dictated by the limitations of the cases. It’s a unique problem, summarized well by Liesbeth den Besten in her book, On Jewellery, A compendium of international contemporary art jewellery.

The museum showcase stresses the preciousness and uniqueness of a piece of jewellery. When an object or a piece of jewellery enters a museum collection its appreciation is changed. Its significance has increased but so has its isolation. The glass vitrine hinders the creation of meaning : the object now has an art status.

But does it really, or is it a perfunctory illusion? Does gaining an art status really mean obscuring the object’s very own conceptual underpinnings? No, I don’t think so, yet in the case of jewelry it is an excepted turn of events. One could argue that the museum’s role is to enhance the qualities of uniqueness, not push them back, yet if the artist does not present this necessity, and many do not, then how much framing of the work is required of the museum as an institution? This is where my head starts to hurt. It’s like thinking about space or something, posing questions that no one can really answer. If one refers to my “Cosmology” of contemporary jewelry, there are arguably very different categories of work being made in the field, all with different motivations that extend beyond the guise of the word jewelry. As Stefano Marchetti recently told me, some work dies behind the glass, and some work dies outside of the glass. Considering all of that while also understanding that the potential life of any jewelry work is so much more infinite than a painting’s for example (sure, you can put the painting anywhere, but a jewelry work can be taken anywhere and simply given to anyone and so on and so forth), is where things get even more complicated. Interestingly enough, this aspect does add to the uniqueness of our field, just like its inability to be easily defined, explained and labeled. I often wonder if individual preference by artist is being met, or in which ways the artist values the lives of their pieces (I have an old blog post that address this issue a bit, read it —> here). Are museums really doing the individual pieces justice? Depends on who you talk to. Perhaps the museum’s most pertinent role thus far is to simply yell, “HEY, YOU! THESE THINGS EXIST!”

 Step by step by step.

Also in the Jewellery Talks film, art historian, curator, writer and lecturer Mònica Gaspar Mallol, talks about the duality of life inside or outside the glass.

Well, if I have to tell you my background, I come from a family of art gallerists, so for me art was something always hanging on your wall or something out of your reach. I was always interest in what you can use and what you can touch and what you can make your own. So I think that since I finished my studies in art history, I went directly for this field, I didn’t have an intermitted stage with other disciplines. That’s always a very interesting conflict that not only jewelry, but any object has. The moment you put something behind the glass, somehow you betray the nature of the object. You make it sharable, you can show it with the rest of the world, but the whole nature of use, of meaning and attachment with the owner or with the collector, somehow gets lost. So I think it’s very interesting the potential that jewelry has being worn on the body, which is almost the worst place to appreciate the piece of jewelry, it’s the worst place you can put an object to really see it and understand it because the body is in movement, you have so many other inputs that can distract you from the perception of the object; it’s very interesting and very paradoxical that the body actually is the best place.

Ok, so if we’ve decided that the museum elevates the work to an art status by negating the very idea behind it, when do others get to fully understand the power of the artwork? Islanders (remember, contemporary jewelry as a small and uncharted island) recognize the potential of the work, as they see time, thought, research and tactile relationship without having to touch. Chances are they know a little (or a lot) about the person who made as well. To islanders, the glass remains satisfactory, after all, their piece is in a museum. If Monica Gasper is right, the body isn’t necessarily so ideal as a place of exhibition either. Of course everything changes and it goes far beyond the technical problems of movement, etc that she mentioned. It’s also likely that the average person never actually gets to touch or wear or experience the piece to begin with; it’s an all too rare exchange left to collectors/buyers whether independent or from other contemporary jewelry galleries. More talking to ourselves. If it isn’t in the glass case and it isn’t on the body, then where the hell is it that those on the outside get to fully understand that these objects are more than precious relics or avant-garde accessories?

THE ROLE OF THE GALLERY EXHIBITION

As a city and center for quality museums and contemporary art, Munich also boasts some well-known contemporary jewelry galleries within its mix. In the case of Schmuck, additional spaces are created to house collateral gallery events, either as extensions of existing international galleries or independently run pop-ups. Because this entry serves to reference the specificity of Schmuck, it will avoid commenting much on the bigger name contemporary jewelry galleries that usually participate in Schmuck’s fair-like aspect; this year Galerie Marzee, Galerie Ra (Holland) and Platina (Sweden) presented themselves in this sense with set-ups adjacent to the Schmuck exhibition in the Handwerkmesse. I will also note that in general, the roles of these established and often quasi-historical galleries serve more similarly to that of the museum and are part of their own, unique system that includes a few exceptions to that very system.

Two of the more known Munich-based jewelry galleries that I was able to visit during Schmuck week were Galerie Handwerk and Galerie Spektrum, showcasing contrasting yet equally interesting exhibitions, despite my resistance to believe so. Handwerk’s show, entitled Die Renaissance des Emaillierens, boasted a list of artists too long to name (click –> here), all of whom are making innovative works with enamel. Usually with a list that extensive I normally get a bit… frustrated, yet all of the work seemed to be carefully selected so as not to appear that the gallery simply invited every single artist living on the island who uses the stuff (even though they might have). Enamel use is a common traditional element in jewelry that doesn’t see the light of day much anymore and obviously it was the exhibition’s common denominator. A show based on material is usually another ingredient for frustration but somehow frustration never ensued. Perhaps it was because most of the selected artists seemed to transcend the qualities of the material in contemporary modes, as enamel can easily connote a statement of “I’m old, irrelevant and boring.” Here is where the show rationalizes itself, an example of good curation even within a theme as banal as “what the pieces are made of.” Other antidotes to a headache include a combination of the gallery’s size (the space is enormous and spans two stories with an open floor-plan), the quality of the individual work, and the space given around each piece. Nothing was overcrowded, as it tends to often be. The gallery clearly respects the work, even though the pieces were once again bound to glass vitrines.

Here I find myself a living contradiction, as again, I was not releasing steam as I moved around the space peering into the protective display cases. I imagine this was so because Galiere Handwerk does not proclaim to be a mecca for contemporary art jewelry. It is not trying too hard to experiment with “new” display that often ends up being just as boring and unconventional as the traditional predecessor. In this sense, Handwerk acts more like a museum while employing a much greater level of education and communication because it is indeed a gallery, with someone present to talk to you about the individual works. Here is Galerie Handwerk’s blurb, absent of fuss and grounded in a special locality:

A showcase for Bavarian trades and crafts, the gallery is devoted to conveying to the general public an idea of the outstanding skills of today’s craftsmen and women and the contribution they make to society.

Mounting seven exhibitions a year, the Galerie Handwerk gives the crafts a highly visible presence on the Munich scene. The exhibition topics reflect all the diverse functions of the crafts in culture and society. They range from applied art and artisanry, through the trades and architecture, the maintenance of protected monuments, and folk art, down to design education and training curricula in the trades. The presentations cover traditional, classic and avant-garde approaches. And they extend beyond regional developments to those taking place on a national and international level. As this implies, the gallery makes a significant contribution to the dissemination and advancement of artisanship worldwide.

Fine, great even. I suppose one could say that Handwerk views this jewelry work to be that of the avant-garde. As it was a good opportunity to see pieces in person (however limited) by legendary and upcoming artist/jewelers (Pavan, Marchetti, other Italian greats alongside more internal and personal works by Carolina Gimeno and Kaori Juzu, just to name a few) Handwerk’s model as a gallery is old and of little interest to my search for contemporary new platforms that want to showcase relational aspects of work being made in the field. Even so and speaking within a very jewelry as (just) jewelry perspective, it was an impressive collection at the very least. The gallery clearly values the pieces as precious relics, and that is not untrue, of course, but my interests are less of how jewelry remains to be related to tradition and craft, and much more of how the field also (or instead) relates to contemporary art.

In contrast to Handwerk, Galerie Spektrum plays in a different ball game that deals more heavily with the artist’s overall concept by aiming to exploit it. Generally, a better example of conceptual recognition within an exhibited series is almost always seen in solo shows, if one can nail one down.

Ruudt Peters’ exhibition Corpus showcased a ring of black cloaks hanging from the ceiling, an installation seen before at Galerie Rob Koudijs last September. Peters is known for taking advantage of space to communicate the fundaments of his works, which this specific installation certainly does. Historically speaking, Peters was one of the first to be recognized for new and innovative display conventions (in 1992 his Passio series, for example, included an exhibition where he also enclosed hanging fabric from the ceiling to the floor around the floating pieces so that one would have to gently find their way in to view the work).

If one was lucky enough to attend the opening at Spektrum on the Sunday afternoon in which the exhibition commenced, Peters was in attendance gifting fragmented brooches of the pieces on show  to those patiently waiting in the long line outside. Spektrum is teeny-tiny, the line to get inside was inevitable. Instead of letting the special restrictions limit the extent to which Peters was able to expose the work’s social ingredients, he used it to his advantage. Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview I had with Peters with regard to how the performance quality in his actions can be seen as a singular artwork.

Ruudt: I asked everyone if they wanted a present, and then I gave one, and I said oh, you want –and I put it on your jacket or whatever, so I put it on everyone. But finally, I had this show of the Corpus Christi [on Sunday], and in every church on Sunday they give you the [eucharist]… I never can do it in my whole life again, a giving a present to someone, because then I kill my whole concept.

Me: And so do you see that act, that day, you doing that, as a work in and of itself?

Ruudt: Yeah. 

Ruudt Peters is interested in building a bridge off the island, he always has been, with work like this serving as a testament. He values the power of his objects, they are charged and are made to charge others, both tactilely and tactfully.

Spektrum values this too. During my visit I spoke briefly with co-founder, Marianne Schliwinski, about installation from the perspective of the gallery. She talked about how the gallery always tries to get the artist to use the full space, as exhibiting at Spektrum is also an invitation for the artist to think about their work in bigger terms or how an installation can also be their work at the same time. Schliwinski said that the opportunity asks the artist to learn more about his or her own work and how it might exists in a new environment, which can be very insightful for the artist, the gallerist and also the public. She paralleled this to self-publication, “it’s like if you do a catalog by yourself you have to reflect about your work… it’s easier to get in front of these unknown people if you have an overview.”

The unknown people are the audience, the public, people who may or may not know so much about the generalities of contemporary art jewelry. Schliwinski wants to communicate to these unknowns and wants to make the information of the artists and the ideas behind the work assessable. Here might be an example of how we are not talking to ourselves.

Interestingly, Spektrum hosted another exhibition simultaneously entitled, FOREVER YOUNG, 30 Jahre Galerie Spektrum (30 years Galerie Spektrum), a self-explanatory retrospective with corresponding photos of the gallery’s artists taken thirty years ago next two singular pieces in the outside display window. Works inside the gallery were crowded together on shelves behind glass, almost mimicking objects found inside a curiosity cabinet. Because of the nature of the show itself, a declared collection of pieces spanning three decades before, the display was forgivable and felt more like a treasure hunt or game of eye-spy.

Lisa Walker’s solo show GLEE at Galerie Biro, and Schmuck darling, Alexander Blank’s Totem on the Sideline at Galerie ARTikel3, were two more gallery exhibitions worth mentioning. I attended both openings; Blank’s happened to be quite a lot empieter than Walker’s due to the late hour of my arrival, yet thankfully so because I was able to see the artist and guests handling the pieces. Walker’s opening was literally shoulder-to-shoulder, and while she took a more conventional root display wise (walls with glass boxes, necklaces hanging on walls), there were a few pieces missing implying that guests were instead adorned. Walker herself could be found at the center of the small space with her elbow resting on an empty pedestal. I mention these two shows together due to their white box similarities yet willingness to pass the pieces around during the chaos that can be an opening event. This environment more accurately mimics that of a real life situation, as after all, jewelry is the everyday and is meant to be experienced.

As far as existing in a self referential island, these two shows had the potential to be bridge builders in their own way, mostly due to the strong and conceptual nature of Blank and Walker’s work. Blank offered a long and impressive press release (which was a text from a former exhibition at Gallery Rob Koudijis written by Keri Quick of AJF) discussing his series in a way that wasn’t confined to the world of jewelry or its history. Instead, Blank’s objects and Quick’s text speak to a universality that in turn rationalize the work’s own existence. More importantly, the verbal framework show a willingness to speak to new audiences while the anonymity of the gallery helps as well (like Spektrum, Walker’s gallery, Biro, is described as a jewelry gallery).

I would like to continue this post, yet due to a fear that it is already too long to hold your attention, I will post a part three, in time. Schmuck exhibitions still to mention will be group show, Suspended at Studio Gabi Green, Volker Atrops’ No Stone Unturned, Mia Maljojoki’s Crossing the Line, Galleria Maurer Zilioli’s showcase of artists Elisabeth Altenburg and Wolfgang Rahs, Returning to the Jewel is a Return from Exile (Robert Baines, Karl Fritsch, Gerd Rothman), the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp’s exhibition The Sound of Silver, group shows What’s in a Frame? and Pin Up.