Report of Lectures Day 4

Jurgen Eickhoff, co-founder of gallery Spektrum, Munich, starts day 4 of the symposium with The Jewellery, The Gallery, The Future, a presentation highlighting the shortage of young curators for the next generation of galleries. This loss, he tells us, is breaking important communication between the artist and the consumer, with the internet being no adequate replacement due to its current impersonal nature. He criticises galleries that host only a few exhibitions a year, stating that their aim is propagandist than a more honest attempt to lead a gallery, present the artist, support them and eventually sell their work. Reminding us that galleries are an important measure of culture, it is clear that Eickhoff has a lot of pride in his field of work as jeweller, curator and exhibitor. And rightly so, with Gallery Spektrum having moved location four times since its birth in 1981, survival and success in this area appears to be an art in itself. Such a story leads us to view Eickhoff as a veteran of the exhibiting world. More than that, his experience is an example to European and Latin American audiences alike of the true migratory nature of contemporary jewellery, where his work places him among the chieftains, elders and mystics of this 21st century tribe.

Following that, there is a tumultuous standing ovation for the organisers Valeria Vallarta Siemelink and Carolina Rojo of the Otro Diseño Foundation who conveys the success of the blog- thousands of logins by the users and over 12,000 visitors from almost every country on earth. She includes a passionate email from a dentist in Uzbekistan, praising everything that has gone on and requesting that the exhibitions be brought to their country. Describing her choice to become a migrant as a privilege, Vallarta Siemelink goes on to tell how it provided her with ‘a freedom that is essential’ and points out that the artists paired for the Grey Area embarked upon a migration of their own. She then reinforces the frequently advocated belief that jewellery is a common language between delegates and highlights the success of this type of communication on the blog. With regard to the artists involved, Vallarta Siemelink gives a special mention to the Cuban artists, who make beauty out of the most constrained resources. As Nanna Melland previously mentioned in her artists presentation, one should not let money restrict ones work, and this is most clearly demonstrated here. Truly, the Gray Area Symposium has crossed boundaries of political and economic significance with the addition of such work.

Cristina Felipe of The Portuguese Association of Contemporary Jewellery (PIN) narrates the successes of her recent work, from the founding of PIN with 2 colleagues, to the 2005 Ars Ornata Europeana Exhibition, which she states temporarily made Lisbon the centre of the often ‘nomadic’ world of European contemporary jewellery. With many exhibitions it was a huge success and from there 2006 saw ‘Four Points of Contact with Lisbon and Rome’, showing the development from original traditional culture to contemporary jewellery and an attempt to establish links between the two nations and their jewellery. In 2007, ‘Impressions on Portuguese Contemporary Jewellery’ saw an expose of the vast variety of techniques used in 21st century approaches. Later that year and with the celebrations spilling into 2008, Felipe shows us the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in Brazil. This event was a true bridge in cultures between Europe and Latin America; an authentic template for the future of transatlantic relations. Finally, 2009 rolled out the red carpet for PIN’s 5th birthday, a party and conference that formed a potent melting pot of knowledge, understanding and wisdom within contemporary jewellery. Felipe ends her presentation with the words of Onno Boekhoudt: ‘Jewellery is just like people, it needs an environment and it can be interesting by itself but basically it is dependant

Liesbeth Den Besten, in her talk ‘The Art of Collecting Wearable Art’ begins with some gorgeous images of the Duchess of Windsor’s private collection whose sale set a world record at Sotheby’s auction house. The pieces we are shown clearly exemplify jewellery as a status symbol but also the constrictive nature of the conventional styles. Den Besten moves on to broaden our horizons on collecting in a 21st century environment, disagreeing with Jorgen Eickhoff and painting a bright future for young collectors, based on the emergence of internet guides to collecting art and the practical attraction of jewellery in particular. She also mentions the existing numbers of jewellery collectors including Damien Skinner’s of purely New Zealand based work and others of a certain style. As president of the Francoise van den Bosch Foundation, we are given an update on the recent developments, awards and the construction of a new building. In extending her contribution and support within the world of jewellery to Latin America, Den Besten’s international reputation is further cemented in this clear and concise lecture.

Finally, the fourth day of the symposium yielded a talk with unique content. Ricardo Domingo of the AL-Invest Program begins by differentiating between the artist and the salesperson, giving us his personal history as a one man jewellery business, his bankruptcy and subsequent conversion to the philosophies of commercialisation. We are taken on a whirlwind tour of marketed products and styles including the Agatha Ruiz de la Prada range and some of Domingo’s own products that are heavily branded and targeted at specific consumer groups. “People are buying iPhones, not rings” he tells us, in what appears to be an attempt to spur the new generation of jewellers into making work that is seen by the majority as ‘cool’ or some other facet of a design that for the sake of selling, these artists must adopt or risk dying out. In a last grab at connecting with an audience dominated by already-successful jewellers and academics, Domingo makes the daring comparison of Ruudt Peters to the model salesman. It is a fascinating revelation to observe a man knee-deep in profit-taking, earnestly making his pitch to the Grey Area Symposium delegates. Perhaps the emerging generation of contemporary jewellers the world over will adopt these precepts of quantity over quality and profit over profundity labelling it ‘success’, for his presentation was hailed loudly with applause and whistles that rank him among the more popular speakers of the conference.

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