In Remembrance of Tone Vigeland, 1938–2024

The Pioneer Was Generous with Her Knowledge and Gave Invaluable Advice


Oslo, Norway, March 31, 2024

Tone Vigeland is widely considered a pioneer within the field of art jewelry. Born in 1938 into one of Norway’s most prominent artist families, Tone entered Statens Håndverks- og Kunstindustriskole (today called Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo, the Oslo National Academy of the Arts) in 1955. In 1957 she began her goldsmith training at Oslo Yrkesskole (Oslo Vocational School) and at David Andersen’s silver workshop, in Oslo. She later joined the PLUS cooperative in Fredrikstad, Norway, where some of her most popular designs were produced. In 1963 she left PLUS to focus on her own artistic practice, creating unique art works.

Tone Vigeland in her studio
Tone Vigeland in her studio, Oslo, Norway, 1967, photo: Hans Jørgen Abel

From 1995 onward, Tone explored large-scale sculptural and spatial works, using many of the same materials we know from her art jewelry practice, including nails, stone, lead, steel, silver, and piano wire.

Tone is represented by numerous museums in Norway and internationally, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London; the Cooper-Hewitt and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York; the National Museum of Modern Design, in Tokyo; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in Paris; and the Pinakothek der Moderne, in Munich. In 2017 and 2018, the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, in Norway, Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, in Munich, and Norwegian Crafts collaborated on an expansive retrospective exhibition on her work. It was titled Jewelry – Object – Sculpture.

Tone was decorated Commander of the Order of St. Olavs in 1996 and awarded the Prince Eugen Medal in 1988. In 1966, she received the Jacobprisen (The Jacob Awarded by Norsk Form).

I first met Tone in 1986 when I was part of a Norwegian jewelry exhibition called Design for the Body, at the ASF Gallery New York (American Scandinavian Foundation Gallery). We were a group of 12 young unexperienced jewelry artists, plus Tone, who was the main attraction of the show.

We journeyed together to the city that never sleeps, a band of artists ready to make our mark. The experience was nothing short of magical, our youthful spirits ignited by the energy of the Big Apple and the opportunity to showcase our work alongside Tone’s.

Our creations were a stark contrast to hers. Her work was a symphony of darkness, strength, and wearability, unlike anything we had seen in Europe. It was clear to us why she was the star of the show. Her unique style drew in the crème de la crème of the American jewelry scene, and the response from both the Norwegian and international press was overwhelming.

Tone introduced us to Robert Lee Morris’s gallery, Artwear, where she unveiled her masterpieces. She shared the secrets of her craft, the intricate construction of her pieces. It was a revelation, a masterclass that left an indelible mark on us all.

Tone Vigeland
Tone Vigeland, 1991, from Aftenposten newspaper, photo: Frode Pedersen, courtesy of Beate Vigeland

Fast forward to 1990. I held my first solo exhibition in Oslo, at Kunstnerforbundet. Tone, ever the keen observer, had a knack for seeing most of the exhibitions in the Oslo area even before they opened. I recall meeting her at Kunstnerforbundet a few days after my opening. She approached me and said, “This is also an interesting way to present the work, I like that.” Her words were the highest praise I could have received.

In 1995, when Tone had her second exhibition at the Kunstindustri Museum, she asked me to help set up her show. This marked the beginning of a fruitful collaboration that spanned years. As Tone ventured into creating larger installations, we enlisted the help of our colleague, Kirsti Reinsborg Grov.

In 2004, we assisted Tone in setting up her exhibition at the Lillehammer Art Museum. The exhibition included objects and wall installations. It was a rewarding experience to see how Tone trusted us to install her art pieces. The memories of this project still bring a smile to my face.

I was filled with pride and honor when the Lillehammer Art Museum invited Tone to open my solo exhibition at the same museum in 2011.

Over the years, we (Kirsti Reinsborg Grov, Runa Vethal Stølen, Reinhold Ziegler, and I) have set up Tone’s exhibitions and commissioned work in both private and official institutions. Working with Tone has been a journey of learning and self-discovery. She was generous in sharing her knowledge and introduced me to Helen Drutt and many other influential figures in the jewelry scene.

I later got to know Beate, one of Tone’s two daughters. We have studios in the same building in Oslo city center and meet regularly. It was a heartwarming gesture when Beate donated a large neckpiece by Tone to Pinakothek der Moderne/Die Neue Sammlung just after my own opening there.

It’s bittersweet to think about the beautiful exhibition she had in Pinakothek der Moderne/Die Neue Sammlung in 2017, while my own exhibition is still running in the same space. She gave me invaluable advice to prepare for such a big exhibition. I wish she could have seen it. The enlightening conversations and the powerful art pieces will forever be etched in my memory.

I will not forget.

Tone Vigeland in her studio
Tone Vigeland in her studio, Oslo, Norway, February 2022, photo: Beate Vigeland

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  • Sigurd Bronger

    Sigurd Bronger was born in Oslo and continues to reside there. He is a maker and a former professor at the National Academy in Oslo. His work is in many collections, including the Museum of Arts and Design (New York City), the V&A (London), Het Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), collector Helen Drutt English, and other institutions. He won the Bavarian State Prize in 2016. He has had solo exhibitions at Atta Gallery (Bangkok), Galerie Ra (Amsterdam), La Joaillerie Par Mazlo (Paris), and Galeria Reverso (Lisbon), among others. His solo exhibition at Munich's Pinakothek der Modern /Die Neue Sammlung runs March 2–June 2, 2024.

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