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( WHAT CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY IS NOT )

Dear International New York Times,

Today I saw your A Cut Above Jewelry feature (from the Dec. 9 issue) laying on the table and decided to give you a read. I must say, you’re soooo confusing! I just can’t figure out why you’re using terms like, contemporary jewelry, or, conceptual and expressive, alongside luxury goods encrusted with diamonds and ridiculous gemstones that no one can afford from labels such as Graff. Is it that you accidentally misplaced the caption, “Straddling the frontier between craft and art, contemporary jewelry is not always pretty. Conceptual and expressive, its meaning may count more”? Or is it just a misguided opinion that you think this kind of stuff IS conceptual and expressive, you know, stuff that is absurdly expensive or can rarely even see in person/get any hands on? Do you think this stuff is conceptual and expressive just because it isn’t exactly normal jewelry or even young? Don’t you know there are things in this world that are really actually what you describe in that caption? I mean, you’re a newspaper, right? Aren’t you supposed to be more accurate? Wouldn’t you think you’d be more interested in things that touch on real topics, perhaps highlighting jewelry that actually is conceptual and expressive, birthed from meaningful ideas and more accessible to the average person? You know, stuff that isn’t just a crazy fantasy off limits to most your readers? Or actually just a product in the end? After all, it says in Suzy Menkes’ article, Graff has over 40 stores all over the world.

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And then we have Nazzanin Lankarani’s piece featuring Cindy Chao’s work that you describe like so: “shaped by a sculptor, jewelry as an art piece,” with all this talk about the labor of a sculptor before Koons which was dependent on that artist using their own hands doing all the work from start to finish, and how Chao does that, as if it’s something unique to her, you know, a new revival of sorts. But it’s just not true! Again, that thing about accuracy. Am I to assume, International New York Times, that you think these kinds of “artists” in jewelry are few and far between? It seems to me like y’all decided to feature Chao because it’s neat she’s a one-man-band and all, and her work perfectly lines up with your bourgee aesthetic you oh-so consistently feature. But like I was saying, is this the best you can do considering this high jewelry/nature thing was maaaybbee conceptual during Art Nouveau (over 100 years ago)? But we don’t have to get into all that.  If you’re interested in featuring more compelling work, maybe even more today, while still holding on to your great need for glitz+glam, why not try to feature someone more like Philip SajetKarl Fritsch or Lola Brooks just to name a few? OH RIGHT you like naturey things a lot. OK ok, why not then look at Marta Mattsson or Mari Ishikawa, or check out this exhibition? Without trying to discredit Chao (as I do respect her work practices at the very least), these people I’ve mentioned are real artists and their work is part of an actual conversation, not to mention the fact that their ‘entry level’ jewelry starts at a hell of a lot less than $10,000-$100,00 like that of Chao. I’m just throwin’ out suggestions here. Can I ask another question? Other than aesthetically speaking, how is Graff or Cindy Chao really that different from the companies who paid for ads alongside these articles (Dior, Chanel, Cartier, de Beers…). At at very least this one from Bulgari below seems slightly more relevant in the sense that if I were rich I might actually consider buying that bracelet and ring set vs. a god awful heart-shaped emerald covered flower or something, but I digress… My point is that if you’re going to use this kind of language, you better get better at choosing the right work to talk about. This ain’t it. It is our language after all, particular to a field you obviously know little to nothing about (see artists I mentioned, they are a good place to start, or watch this video).

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I’ll mention that this jewelry issue from December 9th isn’t completely inaccurate and out of touch, you do include the following bit about jewelry designers exhibiting their work at the Museum of London (which is great), plus a pretty good feature about Romanian designer, Carla Szabo, that talks about what she intends with her objects and local consumer culture.

Getting warmer, but let me ask my last question; why on earth did you feel it necessary to publish this ??? :

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Really hideous, NYT. I won’t even start, which is difficult considering the first thing one reads is “designed for woman”…. you know what, I will take that heart-shaped emerald covered flower thing after all.

Respectfully,

Kellie Riggs

 

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Full texts : Graff—> here / Cindy Chao —> here / London on Edge —> here / Carla Szabo —> here /   A-list Phone —> here

the linked video in this text is a lecture by Damian Skinner introduction AJF’s new book, Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective. 

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)

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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.