In Munich, I meet art jewellery artists and artists creating jewellery and Goldsmiths creating art and manufacturers creating jewellery in an artsy way. All these creatives do not work together in a happy jewellery focused universe and this is confusing for collectors or artists who want to focus on art jewellery. What Does it mean when you say art jewellery?
Definition: Art jewellery is an object that is always based in some way on jewellery and is made to interact with the individual like jewellery but it does not have to be made by a goldsmith or anyone with traditional training in a jewellery craft. Art jewellery expresses the individual talent of the artist reflecting individual ideas and sometimes contemporary culture.
The art jewellery artists tread the line between art and craft and to help grow the art jewellery niche, they look for fellow artists who are focused on art jewellery as their main arena of practice so that their work will be accepted as fine art by art collectors. This is the struggle currently happening within the Art Jewellery world. It is a tiny world full of very creative people.
Basel for Art Week
Going to Basel with this knowledge about art jewellery in my head, I was both happy and angry at the art jewellery displayed at Basel Design. Why was the art jewellery at the design fair and not at an art jewellery fair of its own? Art Photography had their own fair. Art Books had their own fair. Where was the Basel Art Jewellery fair? Why have they not created one or at least moved into one of the satellite art fairs. The design fair was not the right place for fine art jewellery.
Mixing Art Jewellery and Jewellery by Artists
At Basel, the Louisa Guinness Gallery had an amazing exhibition space for their art jewellery and jewellery created by artists – They dared to mix the two.
The gallery placed the art jewellery into a workshop space inside of drawers and allowed you to explore the space and find the art jewellery. The Louisa Guinness Gallery understood that art jewellery is art jewellery and that the artist should not be demoted because they do not have a goldsmith’s practice or focus their energy exclusively on small sometimes wearable objects. They are a gallery and they want to sell art jewellery.
The gallery did separate artwork in their catalogue into Collaboration art jewellery, Historic art jewellery and Modern Art jewellery so you could hunt for what interested you and fit with your definition of art jewellery.
My favourite piece at the louisa Guiness gallery was by the art Jewellery artist Christopher Thompson Royds. The original concept for his earrings used real flowers that browned over time. Because real flowers will not work for a long term piece, the flowers are now painted onto gold and can be worn with just the flower or with the stem.
Artist Creating Jewellery
Anish Kapoor created a large installation pieces at Art Basel Unlimited, created the Cloud gate in Chicago (a/k/a Chicago bean) and the Dirty Corner in Versailles (a/k/a Queen’s Vagina). Now he is making jewellery. This is not a big leap for an artist whose practice is sculpture but some of the art jewellery community dislike this practice of “dabbling” in art jewellery so if you recognized his name and you were not interested in jewellery made by a sculpture, you could avoid opening the drawer because the gallery did a good job of explaining the artwork.
Ai WeiWei Makes Jewellery at Gallery Elisabetta Cipriani
Ai Wei Wei makes art pieces using artisans so it isn’t a big stretch to have Ai WeiWei making art jewellery. The piece below are formed into rebars like the ones used for building in China( The Chinese are not so rich to build houses with gold rebars. The original are steel/iron ore.) The gold rebars created for Ai WeiWei are straight and then Ai Wei Wei bends them into the shape he wants.
Materials are a big deal for art jewellery artists and may be one of the reasons there is such an identity crisis for art jewellery artists. To create art jewellery you do not need to be a goldsmith. In fact, you don’t have to use metal at all. During Munich Art Jewellery Week, I’ve seen art jewellery made from plastic,paper, textile, leather and even the skin of internal animal organs. There is no unifying material and sometimes the jewellery is so conceptual that it cannot even be worn.
In Basel, most of the art jewellery was created using precious metals but, there was an artist creating jewellery made out of tin. The galleriest Antonella Villanova focuses her gallery on art jewellery artists and showed several pieces by Monica Cecchi . Monica’s tin work are all pieces of art that happened to be jewellery created by an artist who focuses on jewellery so is considered by the art jewellery community as an art jewellery artist.
The gallery also exhibited artwork by Gerd Rothmann.
This piece below was one of my favourites art Jewellery piece at the Caroline Van Hoek Gallery. I liked the mix of the pearl, small gem stones and the suede.