Interview Type: Gallery


Quattro Padovani e un Torinese, Annamaria Zanella, sculpture, and Giampaolo Babetto, drawings, June 2012, photo: Ellen Maurer-Zilioli Kellie Riggs: Please explain how your gallery functions as a cultural association. Ellen Maurer-Zilioli: We are living between north and south, between Germany and Italy. From the beginning, I was interested in some sort of cultural exchange. I …

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Galerie Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Galerie Rob Koudijs plays a critical role in the Dutch jewelry community. Rob Koudijs responds to some questions posed by Kamal Nassif.

Kamal Nassif: What do you hope to achieve with your gallery? How do you measure success?

Rob Koudijs: We think contemporary jewelry is a great medium. For more then 30 years, jewelry artists have managed to surprise us and tempt us to buy and wear their work. With Galerie Rob Koudijs, we have the opportunity to support the careers of artists who have excited us for many years and to introduce new, fresh, and promising talents. We enjoy contributing to the development of this field immensely!

We are very proud of finding a new and younger audience for this art form in spite of the commonly uttered fears that galleries have had their heyday and that collectors are “on the verge of extinction.” We feel this is not true. We are playing an important and an essential role as a promoter of contemporary jewelry. It is crucial that this kind of promotion continues. Hopefully, the future will see the start of many new galleries with young owners to continue the good work.

Kamal Nassif: In your latest publication of the GRK Magazine, Ward Schrijver’s essay discusses the pending “unequivocal acceptance” of jewelry into the greater scope of fine art.  Describe the steps you are taking to achieve this acceptance. What can the community of gallerists and artists do to help?

Rob Koudijs: Unfortunately, there is no general institution that decides these matters, so all you can do is be as visible as possible.

Galerie Rob Koudijs is in a high profile area of Amsterdam from the perspective of general shoppers and art gallery visitors. We attend important art fairs; always maintain a good, up-to-date website; write introductions and publish our magazines; very actively work with museums; and we act on any serious invitation to participate in projects or requests for information. (We receive these from all types of design- and art-related websites.)

Getting jewelry in public museums and mentioned in articles and reviews in newspapers, magazines, and websites is probably the most essential way of promotion. The whole jewelry community should put their efforts to this goal! (AJF is already very important in this respect.)

Kamal Nassif: What voice do you feel your publications have in the larger discussion of contemporary jewelry? Who is your ideal audience?

Rob Koudijs: In general, the publications contribute to the feeling that this is an art form and a gallery to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen angry or overly excited people at the door or people who wanted to donate money for the good cause.

Of course, we intend the magazines for our customers and visitors to the gallery, but the best result would be if they would draw the interest of the famous “general public.” So, we hand them out to everyone who is tempted or who is a potential decision maker.

Kamal Nassif: All too often, discussions about contemporary jewelry stay within the community of people who have a prior awareness of the field. I am curious, what do you sell to somebody who has no notion of contemporary jewelry or even of fine art?

Rob Koudijs: We sell them what appeals to them. If you don’t fall in love with a piece—whether it’s small and cheap or spectacular and pricy—it has no use. If someone is new to the field and they are open to it, we show them the width and depth of the medium and the excitement it can bring. If they just want to drop in, buy, and leave quickly, it’s OK as well. We’re sure that one day they will return.

Kamal Nassif: And in that same vein of thought, how important do you think it is for a buyer to understand the conceptual content of a work?

Rob Koudijs: Everybody makes up their own story with a piece; everybody has their own personal associations. So, even if they don’t understand anything of the intellectual content of a work, they can still be utterly happy with it. (This is the case in all fields of the arts). The artist, the gallery, and the customer can all be content. But of course, the more the conceptual idea is understood, the better (naturally, that’s our aim)—and the more profound the satisfaction is for everybody.

Kamal Nassif: Do you feel there is a dialogue between your gallery and the other jewelry galleries in Amsterdam? If so, how would you describe your role?

Rob Koudijs: Well, now there is just Galerie Ra. We’ve known each other for more than 30 years, and we have a good professional relationship. We both have our own profile, and whenever it’s necessary, we have contact or work together. The same goes for Galerie Marzee.

Kamal Nassif: Amsterdam is something of a hub for contemporary jewelry. Do you feel any special obligation to represent the diverse body of work from your own backyard?

Rob Koudijs: We do the best we can for all the artists we represent in the gallery. If something exciting turns up in the Netherlands, we’re always keen to be “on the ball.”

Kamal Nassif: The interior of your gallery has an organic color scheme with wood accents. It is markedly different from the other Amsterdam galleries. What led you to make these design decisions?

Rob Koudijs: We never thought of it as organic. We just wanted to create an inviting, pleasant atmosphere in which the interior design would not distract our visitors. Everything is aimed at presenting jewelry to its best advantage.

This might come as a surprise to you, but Ward Schrijver, who designed our interior, was also responsible for the design of Galerie Sofie Lachaert in Gent, Belgium in 1990, the Gallery Ra interior in use from 1992 to 2010, and the redesign of Gallery Louise Smit in 2002. He designed many art fair booths for Marzee, Lachaert, and later for Smit as well as numerous jewelry exhibitions in museums. As always, every era has its style and every principal his or her own wishes.                                                                 

Kamal Nassif: And now something I have always wondered: why the green accent wall? Is there any particular significance of this color?

Rob Koudijs: The decision to use a color came from the rather haphazard articulation of the existing wall. Coloring one element gave it structure and rest. The color came from the ink color chosen by our graphic designer for our house style. She picked it as an approximation of the color of gold. There is nothing more to it.

Kamal Nassif: If you had to describe your collection in one sentence, what would you say?

Rob Koudijs: Innovative, sculptural works of art enhanced by the presence of craft and technique that can almost always be worn as jewelry.

Kamal Nassif: What have been your biggest challenges since opening in 2007?

Rob Koudijs: To improve on all the fields mentioned above.

Thank you.


Gallery Funaki, Melbourne, Australia

Gallery Funaki in Melbourne, Australia, has a unique reputation in the Australian jewelry scene. Katie Scott, who now heads the gallery founded by Mari Funaki, answers some questions posed by Susan Cummins and Kamal Nassif.

Susan Cummins: For those who haven’t visited you in Melbourne, would you please give us a history of the gallery and its physical location and qualities?

Katie Scott: Mari Funaki opened Gallery Funaki in 1995. She had recently graduated from the metals program at RMIT University, and she wanted to establish a space that would show what she considered the best of international contemporary jewelry—pieces that hadn’t had an audience in Australia before—and show it in a way that really did the work justice. She also wanted to promote Australian jewelry in this context, placing it beside and showing its equality with the international movement. The gallery is located in a small lane in central Melbourne, an area known for its culture and history. It is a small, narrow space fitted out very simply with two long shelves as the exhibition space and a series of drawers in which pieces are kept. Mari felt it was important that the jewelry shouldn’t be behind glass but accessible to the hand and eye. People can really examine and interact with jewelry here in a way they can’t do anywhere else.

Kamal Nassif: Mari was both a maker and a gallerist. How do you feel this dual identity influenced her decisions as a gallerist?

Katie Scott: Mari approached the gallery very much from the perspective of a working artist. Her studio practice gave her a unique and very specific insight into how she ran her business, and she understood things implicitly from an artists’ point of view. That made her gallery a very sympathetic place for artists to exhibit. In terms of display, for instance, she always resisted showing a lot of work at once. Her aesthetic was always extremely minimal because she understood that each piece needed space. The level of perfection she insisted on when showing her own work naturally carried over to showing other artists’ work. Her dual practice also allowed her to talk with artists about jewelry and their work in a way that fostered close relationships and great respect.

Kamal Nassif: Can you speak more about absence of glass between the viewer and the work in Mari’s approach to display? Do you feel this changes the way viewers perceive work?

Katie Scott: We’ve become partially known for the absence of glass. It was simple aesthetic decision to a degree, because Mari didn’t like the look of glass cabinets. But, back in 1995 when the gallery opened, people in Melbourne really didn’t have much understanding of contemporary jewelry. Mari’s idea was that by allowing them to look at pieces from all angles, to pick them up and feel their weight, to relate in a direct, tactile way to the materials and texture, they would find contemporary jewelry exciting and accessible. There is an extent to which jewelry is inevitably deadened when it’s put behind glass. Jewelry, as we all relate like a mantra, is about the human body and human relationships. Allowing people to touch and look at it without glass as a mediator triggers people’s sense of their own involvement in that paradigm. It becomes inclusive rather than rarified and distanced. Certainly, many visitors to Gallery Funaki find the experience remarkable. Some are even quite terrified to open the drawers because they’re so unused to this freedom in a gallery. But, most take to it with utter glee.


Susan Cummins: Can you describe the role that Gallery Funaki played in bringing Australian jewelry to the attention of the world?

Katie Scott: Gallery Funaki was the first gallery to show Australian jewelry in an international context and in a gallery space rather than a shop. This elevated Australian jewelry in the eyes of the public. The gallery quickly established a significant reputation overseas. International artists and collectors appreciated the quality and originality of Australian work in a new way, too. Important Australian artists Carlier Makigawa and Marian Hosking had significant exhibitions early on, and their involvement meant the gallery had a reputation for excellence from the beginning. Mari also took Australian work overseas and promoted it in centers for contemporary jewelry such as Munich and Amsterdam. The Delicate Works exhibition at Galerie Ra, showing the work of Mari Funaki, Mascha Moje, and Marian Hosking, was a very important moment in the promotion of Australian jewelry to the world.

Kamal Nassif: How would you describe the Melbourne jewelry scene in an international context? What do you think are key qualities that identify works as Australian?

Katie Scott: That’s a tricky question. I’m not an expert on the Melbourne jewelry scene by any means. There are galleries here that specialize much more in that area. I would say that we have one of the most vibrant, active scenes in the world. We have university programs at Monash University and RMIT, excellent TAFE programs (all of which soldier on despite savage cuts in funding) and galleries that represent all points on the spectrum between commercial and art jewelry. That means there are a lot of makers and a lot of exposure to the craft here. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that contemporary jewelry is part of the city’s identity. 

I honestly don’t believe that there are key qualities that distinguish Australian work from any other now, and I’d say that’s increasingly the case with any country. Contemporary jewelry is, though vibrant, a very small industry. Everyone sees everyone else’s work through gallery websites and online forums. While this has created an explosion of makers, exhibitions, and conversation, it has also tended to have a homogenizing effect overall I think.

Susan Cummins: How did you end up running the gallery? Are you now the owner?

Katie Scott: I started working at the gallery in 2005, during my third year at Monash University. I gradually took over the day-to-day management of the business as Mari devoted more time to working in her studio. Mari and I worked very closely together for five years, and towards the end of her life, she asked me to take over the gallery. I’m now the owner and director.

Susan Cummins: What is your background?

Katie Scott: I took a fairly circuitous route to get where I am. I worked in design, administration, and event management before starting a fine arts degree in metalsmithing at Monash University, under the supervision of Marian Hosking, Mascha Moje, and Simon Cottrell. After graduating in 2006, I worked part time as a jeweler and also at Gallery Funaki.

Susan Cummins: Can you describe the aesthetic vision of the gallery under Mari Funaki? Have you maintained the same vision?

Katie Scott: Mari had a very clear and uncompromising vision for both her gallery and her own art practice. She knew what she liked and what she didn’t. It was a subjective vision and unapologetically so. She had an extraordinary eye. Within seconds of looking at a piece, she could pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses and why it would or wouldn’t work in her gallery.

Kamal Nassif: Do you collaborate or interact with RMIT?

Katie Scott: Yes, we collaborate with RMIT in presenting lectures and workshops by visiting artists. We have a good, longstanding relationship with the institution, and their students are among the gallery’s most passionate followers. They bring so much energy and enthusiasm. They’re wonderful.

Thank you.



The Four Seasons of Gold

Galerie Elsa Vanier, Paris, France Galerie Elsa Vanier in Paris, France, is a fairly recent addition to the gallery list for AJF. Elsa Vanier is one of the owners of the gallery and the one who makes the final decisions about the gallery show schedule. In a recent interview she said, ‘What I like about jewelry is something about the way it survives us and what it teaches us about past civilization: Something deeply human. For me, a piece of jewelry is a continuity of our personality, it does not need to be costly, but either it is a fashion accessory or it is a work of art.’ Her choice is the work of art using mostly gold and stones with an excellent designer. This month her excellent designer of choice is the jewelry company Niessing in a show she calls The Four Seasons of Gold.

Susan Cummins: Elsa, why did you call the show The Four Seasons of Gold?

Elsa Vanier: From green to reddish, red and white, Niessing masters all the luxurious hues of gold. They do their utmost to offer most pieces in the four main colors, especially bands. They also search constantly for new ‘effects’ and recently invented aura, a 750 gold that ‘goes’ from red to white (see, for example, the Aura rings). For me green is a landscape at spring, yellow is summer, red autumn and white or grey winter . . . thus the name.

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