Zoe Brand started her professional career selling rather expensive writing instruments and occasionally, the odd pencil. Needless to say this wasn’t awe-inspiring stuff, so she up and left her hometown of Brisbane and traversed across the border to the big smoke of Sydney. She has since graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Jewelry and Object Design, worked in galleries, managed exhibition programs, curated shows, written words and drunk some beer. It appears that she is not unhappy about how things turned out and might have even found some excellent uses for those expensive writing instruments.
I have often wondered if jewelry is not best observed (rather than handled) through the haze of a hangover. It’s that state of fragility that requires you to muster your strength and focus all your attention to the task at hand. I unfortunately arrived in Munich on the tail end of Schmuck so I spent my first night in town meeting up with the New Zealand contingent as well as a fellow Australian. They very kindly filled me in on all that I had very jealously missed out on (I did manage to catch about fifteen exhibitions out of the possible 28 or so on the program). That night included a brief meeting with Otto Künzli and some well-placed beverages, so it was in this precious condition that I was to observe my very first Schmuck.
I worked my way slowly to the back of the Exhibition Hall, past some interesting and some not so interesting displays of craft and design. Trying to savor the moment before I would actually witness the often-thought-of-but-far-off-reality-of-attending Schmuck. Of the 59 artists in this annual award showcase, there were some who I recognized instantly, others unfamiliar but excited me all the same. Just to see the scope of work and artists on display was, well, pretty bloody awesome.
Schmuck shared the back of the convention centre with Talente, which was abuzz with freshness, excitement and new approaches to making. Talente clearly succeeded in presenting the youthful exuberance of the best in their fields under the age of 30. The overall highlight of Talente for me was the work of two South Korean jewelers, Semi Kim and Ji Hye Lee. There is just something about the immaculate technique and interesting subject matter in the work of the current generation of Korean jewelers that gets me every time. Frame was also placed in the back corner of the hall and showcased three of the more influential galleries in European jewelry: Galerie Marzee (Netherlands), Galerie Platina (Sweden) and Galerie Ra (Netherlands).
One of the first exhibitions I visited outside of Schmuck was Galerie Für Angewandte Kunst, showing Nicht Dass Du Mir Von Der Blause Fällst (don’t you dare fall off my blouse) a group show of people I might consider as the ‘parents’ of contemporary jewelry in Munich. Back in 1999, these jewelers, including Otto Künzli, Bettina Speckner and Therese Hilbert, got together on the last Wednesday of every month for some beer, food and jewelry chats. It appears that while the members of this group seemed to ebb and flow, what was to be ‘constant was only the young talent still in training and all jewelry gallery owners, collectors and customers were categorically denied attendance.’ (Quoted from Klimt02.)
I was rather excited by the exhibition design. It had been a while since I had seen such a considered effort in the display of jewelry and it was a great solution for such a large space, but I honestly can’t remember a single piece from the show. I have often wondered if is it better to have an exhibition stick in your mind because of the wow factor of display and not remember the work, as opposed to seeing good work displayed poorly and forgetting the show entirely. Because let’s face it, there is a very fine line between these two things. Even if the work is great, if the display doesn’t do it justice it’s just another forgotten show.
I would say that out of all the exhibitions that I managed to visit, three stood out as having a really nice balance of exhibition display and quality of work. Mine x Mine at WITTENBRINKFuenfhoefe presented great work that was supported beautifully by its slightly unconventional display. Mikiko Minewaki’s work was displayed in what looked like a sandbox (minus the sand) on the floor so that you had squat to look closely at the work. Given Minewaki’s favoured materials (plastic toys) this was an appropriate and thoughtful choice of presentation that enhanced rather than detracted from the work. Yutaka Minegishi, whose work I was not as familiar with, had pieces arranged in a line along a tall, fine, open structured frame, mirroring the rectangular box on the floor and placing it against the wall. This seemed to again reflect the nature of the work and allowed the viewer to quietly contemplate the materials and techniques used to create such simple seductive forms eye level.
Other highlights: Giampaolo Babetto’s exhibition L'Italianità dei Gioielli at the Pinakothek der Moderne. Babetto is a genius. A great play was made in the installation on the structure of the display cabinets with large rocks and the scope and aesthetic of his work making the exhibition all the more memorable. The Glass in Czech Jewellery exhibition at Tschechisches Zentrum was also fantastic, mainly for the fact that it was unlike anything else I had seen in Munich so far, it really was extremely refreshing and the work was simply yet effectively displayed in white open frames.
The Danner-Rotunde at Pinakothek der Moderne, curated by Karl Fritsch was pretty overwhelming. I felt like an old man in a porn shop. I saw works that until now I had only dreamed about seeing in the flesh. I had drooled over so many images of these pieces on the screen and in books, but now I was only a pane of glass away from being able to turn them over in my hand and examine the back of the piece (the sign of a true jeweler). It was rather difficult to keep from bursting with excitement! In some ways the experience of this exhibition was like visiting a peep show, so many exotic, desirable objects behind a tantalizingly clear barrier and yet there is no way in hell the bouncer – sorry, gallery guard – was going let me get my filthy paws anywhere near them. Having said that, I spent most of my time in the room alone, after having been followed around continually in every room of the Pinakothek der Moderne and now in what I thought of as being the most valuable room, there was no interest in protection from the gallery guards. Perhaps we are living in such a small reality that only a few would appreciate the value of a piece of rope through an old laptop computer. (Thank you, Lisa Walker.)
I spent three days straight looking, thinking and dreaming jewelry but the strange and interesting fact of the matter is even though I had traveled all that way, I didn’t even once notice that I hadn’t so much as fondled a single piece of jewelry during the whole time. Hopefully 2011 will see me make it back to Munich, and next time I will make sure that I am armed with more than just a hangover.