Damian Skinner is an art historian and curator based in Gisborne, New Zealand. He edited the book Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective (Lark Books, 2013).
Galleries exhibiting jewelry are an important part of our community and the people who run them have interesting backgrounds and stories to tell. In this interview Paul Derrez from Galerie Ra in Amsterdam, the Netherlands answered some questions posed by Damian Skinner.
Damian Skinner: 35 years old – that means Galerie Ra is almost middle-aged! What keeps you opening the door year after year?
Paul Derrez: Its more than just opening the door . . . It’s a mixture of passion, addiction, commitment, vision, skills, labour and discipline.
What have been your biggest challenges during the last three decades?
To go international, shortly after opening Ra in 1976, was a change in terms of the previous situation of the field – and crucial for the development and success of Ra.
Moving Ra in 1983 to premises Vijzelstraat was a huge and ambitious step. At the same time starting the Ra bulletin-posters added to the unlimited ambition/expansion.
Moving Ra in 2010 to Nes felt as if we were going back to our roots. Smaller, more precise, more personal, more intimate.
I should have listened to my mother: be smart, gain a good income, savings and a pension. Now I’ve end up famous and poor!
How do you explain to someone who doesn’t know anything about contemporary jewelry what exactly it is that you sell in the gallery?
Ra shows work, mainly jewellery, that has not existed before, that you have not seen before. The pieces express in a specific way personal or more general ideas and themes, they relate to the maker/the artist, to society and to the moment.
Galerie Ra has a collection of contemporary jewelry. Why did you started collecting, and what are your goals in putting the collection together?
Galerie Ra has what I call a permanent collection, but this is an overview with work by all the represented artists. With my husband Willem Hoogstede I have also collected jewellery for private use. This Paul Derrez/Willem Hoogstede collection is separate from the gallery. About 500 pieces cover 50 years and form a broad spectrum. The reason to buy them is to wear them, but also the reference to the maker and the moment. Often an exhibition in Galerie Ra became, in hindsight, important.
Amsterdam, as a lively international hotspot, was crucial to fit the international ambition of Ra. Nowadays, with easy and intense international exchange, it’s less important. I hardly realise anymore where the artists are based. Geography does not count. I try to be informed about what happens in jewellery in the world, but at the same time I commit myself to the artists I have chosen to represent in Ra. I have developed a good sense for quality and professional attitude.
What niche do you and your gallery occupy in the contemporary jewelry eco-system?
What do you mean by this? Making and dealing with this kind of jewellery is extremely luxurious and at the same time essential. It’s a form of refined culture!
What are the three most interesting pieces of jewelry you've seen lately?
Fortunately, I also feel, touch and wear jewellery. To appreciate a piece, this personal, three-dimensional interaction is crucial. So I’ve selected three pieces from the current show at Ra, pieces that are right in front of me now:
Johanna Dahm, William Tells Shot, rings, made from gold or silver bars. The hole is shot through. A design that deals with greed and aggression.
Catherine Truman, Red Shell, brooch. Carved from English lime wood. This silent, hybrid brooch refers to nature, is shell and leaf at the same time. Incorporates historical awareness and superb craftsmanship.
Ela Bauer, Plastic Rings. A perfect product: beautiful, wearable, affordable.