Spotlighting Some of the Best of 2020

As AJF plans its publishing for 2021, I’m glancing back at 2020. By the end of this year, AJF will have published 77 pieces. We strive to bring you a variety of readings: essays about jewelry; interviews with gallerists, curators, and artists; exhibition and book reviews; remembrances; and more. The break down, should you be a numbers-minded kind of person, is

  • 52 articles of all types
  • 13 On Offer features
  • 12 issues of The Report

Add to that 35 AJF Live events. Not too shabby for a skeleton crew consisting of our executive director, plus a managing editor and two outreach assistants whose combined time equals one full-time position!

The Danner Rotunde 2020 as curated by Mikiko Minewaki, Alexander Blank, and Hans Stofer, photo: Die Neue Sammlung (A. Laurenzo)

A few noteworthy articles

We hope you consider everything we publish topical, but I wanted to bring a few especially notable articles to your attention in case you missed them (or wanted to reread them)!

The new curation of the Danner Rotunde—by Hans Stofer, Mikiko Minewaki, and Alexander Blank—opened right before the coronavirus first shut down much of Europe in March. Liesbeth den Besten managed to slide in right before the museum closed for weeks, and she sent in a review of the new display, which is updated every five years, as well as an in-depth summary of the accompanying book, Schmuck A–Z, highlighting its key points. The book, which gives the history of the private Danner Foundation and of the public Neue Sammlung/Design Museum, was written by Dr. Petra Hölscher, the curator of the Neue Sammlung. We also published an interview with Hölscher this year, with insightful questions from Susan Cummins and comprehensive replies from the curator. Collectors seeking a permanent place for their collections may be particularly interested in Hölscher’s description of Die Neue Sammlung’s process for acquiring new work.

After the closing of Galerie Ra in December 2019, Susan Cummins treated us to a brief history of the gallery—which had been open for 43 years!—in a fascinating interview with Paul Derrez.

Galerie Ra in 1978, photo courtesy of Paul Derrez

The Artivist recounts the challenges that Eva van Kempen encountered while producing the work Lady Liberty. Made of expired abortion pill packs, it supports the right to freely access abortion care. As Ilaria Ruggiero recounts, van Kempen launched the Lady Liberty Abortion Pill Crown as an Instagram face filter to generate a global digital protest prior to the most high-profile abortion rights case in the US in decades. Instagram initially rejected the filter, then, under pressure, placed conditions that compromised the artistic gesture, negating the possibility of inserting the message “Liberate abortion pills,” which was associated with the filter.

ilona Schwippel contributed a review of the dreamlike Extraordinaire. The show, at mudac, displayed a selection of objects, drawn mostly from its collection, in a series of rooms that suggested a private residence—living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom. The otherworldly scenography suggests domestic situations with a décor of fake furnishings in cardboard and white paint, creating a surreal narrative. The selected objects inhabit this interior, each curator revealing his or her own favorites.

An exhibition view from Extraordinaire, which ilona Schwippel reviewed for AJF, photo copyright Olga Cafiero

The coronavirus not only shut down fairs and institutions, it drastically changed the way that instructors/jewelry programs around the world teach the next generation. With a shift from studio- and technique-based learning, educators had to adapt their curricula. From in-person instruction to remote learning, projects evolved, exhibitions shifted online, and found-object-based material explorations became the new standard for instruction. Melis Agabigum interviewed educators about the challenges of Teaching During the Time of COVID in a two-part article. Contributors included Leslie Boyd, Sungyeoul Lee, Jorge Manilla, Lisa McGovern, Kerianne Quick, Jess Tolbert, and Jennifer Wells.

Lyle XOX: Head of Design features Lyle Reimer’s incredibly imaginative portrait work.

Lyle XOX: Head of Design features Lyle Reimer’s incredibly imaginative portrait work. Rebekah Frank brought this book to our attention in a review that sought to push the conversation about art jewelry by examining a makeup artist from the drag and fashion world who photographs himself while wearing trash on his head.

American contemporary jewelry artist Tanya Crane, who currently works with liquid enamels on metal, gave a tour of her studio an


AJF Live events

After COVID-19 shut down the planet, AJF started a new program of weekly AJF Live events on Zoom. Between April and December, we hosted 33 of those, free and open to the public. They’ve all been recorded, and the videos are posted to our website, for anyone to watch anytime. It’s been challenging to get to Asia because of the time difference, but otherwise we’ve toured the globe—guests have included

You can see a full list of videos here.

We held two other AJF Live events as ticketed fund raisers for our organization. One of those featured the artists and jewelry power couple Lisa Walker and Karl Fritsch; the other starred collector Marion Fulk, who shared some of her gorgeous collection, with its astounding breadth. We’re deeply grateful to all three for helping boost AJF’s 2020 budget, especially after the shortfalls caused in our budget (as well as in the budgets of most arts organizations) as a result of the pandemic. We also thank everyone who donated to attend!

For the photo essay What We Collect, Marion Delarue shared a piece she owns by Lore Langendries.

Photo essays

We launched photo essays—a new type of article for us—near the end of 2019, and got such a favorable response that we stepped up our efforts to produce more of those in 2020. Photo essays in 2020 included spotlights on Munich Jewellery Week, with snapshots generously sent in by people attending despite coronavirus. We also shared birthday messages for Helen Drutt, who turned 90 in 2020! Because we love the fact that photo essays can pull together our community and let us get to know each other a little better, we invited members to contribute images to a photo essay featuring their furry friends, Jewelers & Their Pets. We also published What We Collect, in which we ask you, dear reader, to send in a photo of your favorite piece of jewelry, along with a few words explaining why you selected it. We intend this to be a quarterly series, so if you didn’t get a chance to join the fun this year, there will be more opportunities in 2021. And don’t worry if you can’t pick just one. You can send us a photo of that amazing necklace for the March edition, and then submit a photo of that incredible brooch for the May installment, and then…

Up until now, our photo essays have all consisted of images accompanied by captions, but in 2021, look for some of them to be visual essays by writers—in other words, the photos essays will be conceived from the start as vehicles for storytelling.

 Märta Mattsson and her dog, Saga, in Mattsson’s studio in Gothenburg, Sweden, photo: Amelia Bille

Additions to our digital library

This year, 15 new PDFs were uploaded to our digital Library. AJF believes that essays, dissertations, and other writing about art jewelry ought to be easily accessible for research, so we host this searchable area of our website to allow members of the public to share their publications. Articles in AJF’s Library include monographs, essays, dissertations, catalogs, dissertations, chapters from books, and other scholarly texts. Anyone can contribute. Thanks to everyone who enriched our Library this year! A few noteworthy items that came in include

  • The gorgeous catalog from the Hermann Jünger: 50 Jahre V-Schmuck exhibition
  • The catalog for Elegy, which was scheduled for March 10–April 9, 2020, at Gallery Funaki and invited 12 Australian women artists to present jewelry and objects that facilitate mourning for a world in peril
  • Jimena Ríos’s catalog for Verdadero es lo hecho: Ex votos and contemporary jewellery
  • An essay by Melinda Young called Everything and Nothing: Jewellery Beyond Adornment, which was commissioned for the Australian Design Centre’s national touring exhibition, Made/Worn: Australian Contemporary Jewellery
  • An article by Beverly Price called Mapungubwe Re-Mined, drawn from the book Mapungubwe Remembered, which honors a fine-gold precolonial rhinoceros sculpture found in South Africa in 1932 and kept hidden on the Pretoria University campus until the end of apartheid, in 1994
  • Five MFA theses from SUNY New Paltz students, including one by Stefan Gougherty, who samples content from trash to treasure to create curious, interactive jewelry that explores the surreal through engineering and illusion, confounding expectations

A spread from Jumble Gym: Playful Randomness in Contemporary Jewelry, Stefan Gougherty’s MFA thesis. You can read it in AJF’s Li

We’re always looking for article submissions and writers, so please submit your proposals or share any of your ideas for articles. We absolutely love producing this programming for you. If you enjoy it and aren’t already a member of our organization, please consider joining AJF or making a donation here. We appreciate everyone who writes for AJF and contributes to the organization—we couldn't do it without you! As I start working with writers on next year's publishing schedule, I bid a not-so-fond adieu to 2020. What a doozy—may next year be less chaotic than this one! Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, and properous 2021, replete with jewelry.

Nathalie Mornu

Nathalie Mornu has edited nonfiction and DIY books since 2003; she is particularly passionate about titles specializing in jewelry and crafts. After studying jewelry fabrication and furniture-making for five years at the Appalachian Center for Craft, she changed course altogether and pursued a degree in journalism. Nathalie then spent a dozen years in the editorial department at Lark Books. In her tenure there, she worked with former Art Jewelry Forum editor Damian Skinner to copy edit Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective. Nathalie began serving as AJF’s proofreader in June 2014 and subsequently branched out to copy editing and content management for the organization.

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