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  • Neckpiece, Paul Derrez, cork, spray paint, 1985, features in I AM HERE

The Here and Now

Corinne Julius looks at jewellery at COLLECT

Jewellery is and has always been a signifier of status, values and beliefs although, it is often assumed to be a demonstration of the wealth of the donor or buyer. It marks adolescence, marriage and widowhood; all since cave dwellers adorned themselves with feathers and seeds to announce difference and belonging.

In the 1970s, contemporary jewellers sought to move away from conventional notions of preciousness that were dependent on the use of valuable metals and gemstones, instead maintaining that the ideas and concepts behind their jewellery gave value and meaning. They considered themselves artists or makers, rather than skilled artisans; their work was redefined not as jewellery, but as wearable art. 

Crossing Brooch, Jack Cunningham, 2000. Photo: Heini Schneebeli. Showing as part of the I AM HERE exhibition

Since its inception, the annual Crafts Council show COLLECT, has been a magnet for collectors, students, jewellers, teachers and many interested visitors. The exhibition has attracted international galleries and makers particularly from the Netherlands. ‘COLLECT has been pivotal in creating new contacts and collectors for many galleries,’ says Daniella Wells, the show’s director. 

Although there are no official figures, ‘anecdotally,’ says Wells, ‘ceramics and jewellery seem to be the most popular disciplines at the fair. The focus of jewellery at COLLECT is for the work to be considered as an art object, we specifically term it art jewellery. So it’s reasonable to say that there is a leaning towards non-precious materials and more conceptual work. There is work in precious metals shown by such leaders as Giovanni Corvaja [Adrian Sassoon], but you’re more likely to find precious metals combined with non-precious, for example pieces such as Winfried Krüger’s [Galerie Marzee] oxidised silver, lead strapping, textile pendant.’

Tarzan, Rodolfo Ramon Azaro, Cast Polyester Resin, 1973. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography. Showing as part of the I AM HERE exhibition

Marzee’s plan-chest, whose drawers house carefully arranged conceptual pieces by such artists as Dorothea Prühl, Junwon Jung, Otto Künzli, Rudolf Kocéa, Stefano Marchetti and Ute Eitzenhöfer have become a regular banquet for jewellery-holics. Fewer galleries will show jewellery alone; many exhibits will include art pieces by overseas makers. 

And COLLECT will give visitors an in-depth historical understanding of the contemporary jewellery movement, with the preview of the Crafts Council’s new 2015 touring exhibition I AM HERE. Curated by the Crafts Council’s head of exhibitions and collections Annabelle Campbell with Lorna Burn, exhibition and collection project curator, I AM HERE will show selected jewellery from 1970s to the present day. 

The show draws heavily on the Crafts Council’s Collection, started in 1972. Acquisitions for the Collection are selected by a panel of makers, curators and critics to give a snapshot of the pinnacles of making by UK-based practitioners. The selection criteria include recording significant developments in a maker’s practice, a specific time in craft practice and the documentation of trends and innovation in the materials, processes, skills and technologies of contemporary craft. It includes work by the most eminent of UK-based jewellers, especially those who have changed the course of British jewellery development, such as Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, Caroline Broadhead, Gerda Flöckinger, Naomi Filmer, David Poston, Elizabeth Callinicos and Dorothy Hogg.

22 In 1 Armpiece, Caroline Broadhead, 1984. Photo: IAN DOBBIE. Showing as part of the I AM HERE exhibition

For COLLECT, the I AM HERE preview will focus on the 1970s, the start of the studio jewellery movement, together with more recent pieces by UK and international makers, the latter via loans from Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) with its outstanding contemporary collection, which includes work by Ted Noten, Gijs Bakker, Karl Fritsch, Otto Künzli and Felieke van der Leest, as well as loans from Galerie Marzee’s artists and the owner, Marie- José Van Den Hout’s personal collection. Campbell explains that the title is from a statement by the anthropologist Ted Polhemus in his 2007 essay commissioned by the Crafts Council for the Jerwood Applied Arts Prize: ‘Lost in an increasingly undifferentiated, homogenised global universe, we urgently need visual adjectives which proclaim ‘I am here’. Out of such visual meaning may… come connection.’

This is an excerpt taken from the Crafts Guide to COLLECT 2015 which comes free with the May/June issue of Crafts magazine.

I AM HERE will be launching in full in autumn 2015 and will be followed by a nationwide tour.

Concrete and Glass Neckpiece, Kepa Karmona, 2009. Showing as part of the I AM HERE exhibition

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