AJF members are representative of the field of contemporary jewelry at large. They are a mixed bunch of writers, curators, collectors, makers, teachers, and the 40 possible combinations thereof. (Few—if any—in this field are doing just one thing.) They live and work all over the world, and their diplomas can be distant memories or short term goals. They are old, they are young: they are the sap that makes AJF grow.
Wolfgang Lösche is head of the department of exhibition and fairs at the Chamber of Skilled Trades (Munich and Upper Bavarian County). He has been in charge of the Schmuck and Talente exhibitions for the past 10 years. Lösche is responsible for picking an external juror for each year’s selection. (His predecessor Peter Nickl introduced this policy with great success.) Lösche makes sure—as Nickl before him—that Schmuck gets plenty of exposure abroad. Past touring destinations have included: Dublin, Ireland (1991); Kilmarnock, Scotland (2002); New York, New York, USA (2006); Padua, Italy (2007); Birmingham, England and Lodz, Poland (2008); Melbourne, Australia (2009); and Cagnes-sur-Mer, France (2011). Finally, Wolfgang Lösche is manager of Galerie Handwerk, the Chamber of Skilled Trades’ retail gallery. Each year, Galerie Handwerk organizes seven exhibitions showcasing different arts and crafts disciplines, as well as an international jewelry exhibition during Schmuck.
Finally, Lösche collates, together with his team, the ever-expanding Schmuck program. While not very well known abroad, he can take a large chunk of the credit for establishing Munich as the yearly meeting point for the international jewelry community. Lösche is our second guest for the Interview by Members series.
AJF team: The questions below make the assumption that you are somehow responsible for everything that happens in Munich in March. We know that this is not true, yet you do have a rather prominent role in the field. How would you describe this role? Do you feel you are steering contemporary jewelry in a particular direction? Or are you simply documenting what is happening in the discipline?
Wolfgang Lösche: We are not, in fact, responsible for the whole jewelry program, but for decades all information concerning jewelry converges in our department. This is connected with the organization of the Schmuck show and the international contacts that evolved over the course of the years. Many goldsmiths, gallery owners, and institutions turn to us if they have any questions concerning Schmuck.
We do not want to direct contemporary jewelry in a particular direction. Rather, it is our aim to document current tendencies on an international scope as far as they are apparent for us. The exhibition Schmuck is a competition, and we ask our international contacts to recommend artists, but there are also free applications. Our duty lies in the organization and realization of Schmuck. We know that we can only present a fractional section of a much larger field. In addition, for a long time the Gallery Handwerk has presented internationally jewelry exhibitions in its rooms during the crafts fair.
Jorunn Veiteberg, Copenhagen, Denmark: Does the context of the big Handwerksmesse influence the choices made for Schmuck, Meister der Moderne, and Talente? If yes, what are the challenges?
Wolfgang Lösche: No, the selections that we make for our special exhibitions are in no way dependent on the crafts fair. We do not receive instructions or recommendations from the fair organization. Nevertheless, we do have some general criteria for our choices. These include the quality of execution, aspects of crafts, and the fact that our focus is on the applied arts and not on the fine arts.
AJF team: The decision to have only one juror for Schmuck was originally reached to ensure that the selection is both singular and subjective (rather than being a “decision by committee”). Do you think this is still a relevant choice? On what criteria do you base your choice of jurors?
Wolfgang Lösche: Yes, we still consider that this procedure ensures that another focus is evident in the exhibition each year. The choice of the juror is a very difficult one and a very exciting one. For the juror, we select a person who knows the international jewelry scene very well and takes some basic qualities into consideration. I also expect that the juror shows a certain kind of openness, and that his or her choice is not solely determined by personal taste.
AJF team: Why have so few women ever been juror when contemporary jewelry (in most aspects of the profession) features a majority of women? Also, jurors tend to be from the contemporary jewelry “old world” (England, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy). Have you considered selecting jurors from a wider geographic distribution and different cultural backgrounds?
Wolfgang Lösche: From year to year, we do not decide on the juror with the basic aim to provide an equal representation of women and men. It is not our major focus to settle on a male or female juror. Rather, we look on our relationship with a potential juror and on our experiences with this person. If we think that she or he is the right person for the jury, it is of no importance where he or she comes from. We try to strengthen and to expand the rapport to different cultures and countries with the help of our international network. It is therefore no wonder that we receive such a huge number of applications from Asia and Australia.
AJF team: The Schmuck catalogue relies on provided photographs. The way you have been accommodating this (by reproducing them on a white background) tends to underline the sculptural. In turn, the Schmuck “style” has set the standard for the field. Most catalogues emulate the same highly de-contextualized style. Are you still happy with this direction? Would it not be possible to ask makers to send their work well in advance so that you can re-shoot it in a less anesthetized fashion? Could small texts on each artist's work not transform this collection of (pretty) pictures into a document about intentions and practice?
Wolfgang Lösche: For the realization of the Schmuck catalogue, we only have a very restricted budget at our disposal. We prefer the de-contextualized style instead of a staged presentation. It is absolutely imaginable to have explanatory texts in the Schmuck catalogue. We have them in the Talente catalogue already.
AJF team: Why have installations or photographs never been considered for the selection—until this year, with Nanna Melland’s Swarm—when so much of today’s jewelry toys with these media and occupies space outside the showcase?
Wolfgang Lösche: The wearabilty of jewelry is a very important aspect for us in Schmuck. We do not show installations because the fair is not the right place for this. Moreover, the exhibition architecture is not really conceived for this sort of jewelry. Nanna Melland’s Swarm was a work that could be presented in the setting of the exhibition architecture. She also adapted her work to the place and reacted to the space. In addition, each of her airplanes is a small wearable brooch.
Aaron Patrick Decker, Portland, Maine, USA: The art jewelry field is often viewed as insular. Is it your hope that Schmuckszene (and all the events surrounding it) will expand the demographic that enjoys, consumes, and wears art jewelry? Is it something you take into consideration when planning the exhibition? If it is, what group of people would you like to one day see the show?
Wolfgang Lösche: It is our opinion that it is very fine to present Schmuck in the context of a much visited fair, such as the International Crafts Fair. I regard the mixture of an expert public and a general audience as very refreshing and lively. The atmosphere resembles that of a marketplace, and one aspect of the show is devoted to selling the works or to establishing links between artists and collectors or gallery owners. It is our aim to set up an interest in contemporary jewelry in many people. I do think that we have succeeded in this over the past 10 years. A lot of other institutions, such as the Neue Sammlung, the jewelry class at the Academy of Fine Arts, and galleries in Munich, took part in this success.
Liesbeth den Besten, Amstelveen, the Netherlands, and Tanel Veenre, Tallinn, Estonia: Everyone knows about the IHM, but Schmuck, which is quite a big event, is unknown to the average Munchener. There are no banners in the city highlighting the different venues. There are no proper maps. There is no proper program. The program is essentially a list of events organized according to opening times rather than place. (As the number of events is growing every year, a distribution according to neighborhood would be especially handy.) Next year, you might choose to cooperate with one of the initiatives that took care of this problem this year, such as Current Obsession magazine or the Schmuck-Finder. Are you considering doing this? Alternatively, couldn't you hire some young and enthusiastic person or public relations agency to work in this direction, to making all the fresh ideas exposed during Schmuck also visible in a wider picture?
Wolfgang Lösche: The presentation in the media and the marketing of Schmuck could indeed be better. But, we cannot realize this due to our other activities during the International Crafts Fair. We not only organize Schmuck, but also Exempla, Talente, and Meister der Moderne as well a jewelry exhibition in our Gallery Handwerk in the city center. I like very much that the huge program in Munich was born out of itself and the activities of the goldsmiths, museums, and galleries, and that it was not conceived by a PR agency or a cultural manager. Concerning the program and its presentation, we already co-operated this year with Current Obsession. I can definitely imagine this happening again. There are some ideas for making Schmuck more prominent in Munich in the future and for linking it more closely with other cultural institutions. We work for this most enthusiastically.
Marianne Schliwinski, Munich, Germany: There are more and more exhibitions listed on the Schmuck program (67 events this year). While I understand that it is important to give fearless students a chance to see everything, for collectors and gallery owners it has become impossible to decide what to see on the basis of the flyer. Nor is the quality of all the exhibitions the same. It now looks like the urge to give everyone a chance is threatening to water down the quality of the program. Could a selection of the best not be made?
Wolfgang Lösche: Ten years ago, we started preparing a list with all activities in Munich during Schmuck based on the wishes of many visitors from foreign countries. Back then, this was a rather short list. That this simple idea increased over the years to a huge, almost confusing, program was quite a surprise. We never intended to be the organizers of a program, but rather the compilers of information. The number of events will perhaps force us to make a selection of events, and we will surely make a decision based on the importance and quality of the event. Nevertheless, it must be considered that such a selection will be complicated due to shortness of time. This relates not only to the amount of work we have in preparing all our exhibitions for the fair, but also to the organization of the events that make up the Schmuck program. A lot of them get finalized very late.
Lousje Skala, Melbourne, Australia: On the Sunday after Warwick Freeman’s excellent talk, I saw an extraordinary group of art jewelry individuals disperse back onto the Munich streets, and I felt I was witnessing an opportunity lost. A lecture theater, an academy for support, some of the finest academics, gallerists, collectors, and practitioners in the field, all under one roof at one time. The opportunity for an intellectual exchange in the form of a symposium lay before us but did not happen. In my view, an intellectual symposium would give Schmuck global context beyond the visual, and it would facilitate a meaningful gathering beyond the current informality of the noisy beer hall meeting. It would add an important component to this already significant event and ensure that it maintains its position as the annual pre-eminent art jewelry gathering. Do you think that a formal symposium could be added to the Schmuck event program?
Wolfgang Lösche: I can imagine very much that we will have a jewelry conference during Schmuck. Hopefully then, no one will complain that there is one more event on the list. It must be kept in mind that it might be a problem of time to see a lot of exhibitions, visit the fair, and attend a conference.
Agita Putaane, Riga, Latvia: What, in your opinion, has changed during the past five years? What surprised you most in the selection five years ago, and what surprised you this year?
Wolfgang Lösche: The public perception of jewelry in Munich has very much increased. Press and cultural institutions in Munich co-operate more strongly with us. The international scope of the applications has risen over the years. We sense an increasing interest in participating in Schmuck, especially from countries such as Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. Five years ago, Ralph Turner served as juror for Schmuck. I was very much impressed by his consequent and considered choice. This year, it was astonishing how many applications from Japan Bernhard Schobinger selected for the exhibition. This is an example of the surprising and interesting consequences of delegating the choice to one juror and his or her subjective vision.