Heading South to Grow Up International


JOYA 2013 was the fifth edition of a now-international fair that was born as “Joyas a la Carta” in 2007—a mainly local event to promote contemporary jewelry that followed the models of other fashion events taking place in Barcelona. The initiative to promote contemporary jewelry took form under the care and direction of Paulo Ribeiro and Anthony Chevalier from Le Department and Piotr Rybaccek of La Basilica Gallery as a private initiative. In the past five years, the event has substantially grown in size. Some 215 artists from 35 countries, 14 galleries, 10 schools, and about 3000 visitors are involved in the present edition. 

Florence Croisier
Florence Croisier, Dynjandi 2, 2013, oxidized titanium, height: 800 mm, photo: Carles Segarra

Monday, October 14, 2013, 18:00 hours

Encounter with Paulo Ribeiro at Massana School

I meet Paulo at the entrance of Escola Massana. While the students finish the last details of the exhibition Linia de Sortida, we decide to take a chamomile tea (Paulo) and a coffee (me), sitting on the patio of the school.

I ask Paulo what distinguishes this fair from other international events. He answers that participants in previous editions describe it as “having an experience” and highlight the friendly and relaxed interaction generated among exhibitors. The exhibit-it-yourself format, in particular, means that artists present and defend their work in person and therefore receive direct feedback from visitors. At a time when the general trend in design seems to favor the custom made and the locally produced, this approach may interest the general public. The exhibitors, on cue, seek to convey feelings and establish complicity through immediate and personal contact.

The challenge for us, Paulo continues, is to find a place alongside other fairs. After doing a survey of European fairs dedicated to international jewelry, the need to offer something distinctive became clear for the organizers. In order to justify putting together another international contemporary jewelry fair in Europe, a point of interest had to be found that would allow the event to create content and a new audience.

It seems that this point was to look south. South of Europe, proclaiming the Mediterranean Barcelona as a friendly and cool design corner, but above all, establishing JOYA as a link and bridge to South America, where contemporary jewelry is gaining ever-growing momentum and where events, exhibitions, workshops, and symposia proliferate under the competent stewardship of South American artists and agents. In the beginning, this movement relied too much on Europe’s lack of interest to fire itself up. Today, however, it clearly has begun to establish and develop according to its own needs, preferences, and trends. In this context, JOYA is working hard to become a reference point for joining these two scenarios and establishing a platform for artists of the South. The guest artist of the 2013 edition was Florence Croisier from France. Perhaps future editions will bring conditions suitable to assessing how successfully this fair is in creating the bridge and the desired link.

Exhibition view, JOYA Barcelona 2013
Exhibition view, JOYA Barcelona 2013, Convent dels Angels, FAD, Barcelona, photo: Carles Segarra

Walka Studio presented their Matadero series as part of the unofficial Off-JOYA activities. Those activities really took off this year. Many exhibitions were outside the fair, which the organizers consider a token of the increasing vitality of the main event. This bears testimony to the capillarity of jewelry fairs and (hopefully) to the porosity to new audiences, something that I consider of radical importance.

It is difficult to assess, however, how successful JOYA has been in establishing a dialogue with artists from other disciplines or an audience beyond the narrow circles of friends and insiders. Surely for participants in the fair, who pay their booth fees, the sales and new contacts they make will be an important gauge of their success, beyond how nice it is to participate in the event. (Booth fees in 2012 were 500€ for artists and 900€ for galleries)

When I ask Paulo who the audience for JOYA is, or should be, he says that the fair is creating a new breed of collectors who mostly come from contemporary art collecting. In fact, he credits the communication work done throughout the year at contemporary art fairs such as ARCO or Swab for recruiting new collectors. Another one of JOYA’s core ambitions—to which we return several times during our conversation—is to provide a meeting platform for people who share the same concerns and have overlapping practices: exhibitors, creators, artists, and designers. The evolution of the fair will confirm if there is a synergy between these two goals.

In the future, Paulo would like to attract more attention from the Design Museum of Barcelona, DHUB, and establish a more permanent collaboration with cultural institutions in the field of art and design. And, yes, he would also like to improve the selection through more promotion, with a view toward getting more creators to apply. It seems that changes will come in the next edition, both in the jury procedures and in the composition of professionals who are responsible for this selection. A change of venue is also in the cards, and the organizers are looking into new options for next year. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 18:15 hours

Encounter with Noon Passama at Klimt02 Gallery

When I get to the gallery, Leo and Amador (Klimt02 directors) are with Noon, looking at the composition of the three photos hanging from the side wall of the gallery. They are glad to have changed the print size and have picked a bigger one. According to Noon, the photos of the pieces, accompanying the actual pieces, are an essential part of her proposal. The images, which were commissioned by Passama (with no accompanying restrictions) from the photographic duo Severafrahm, almost convert the gallery space into a collection of family portraits. One of these photos dominates the gallery space. The image, featuring a set of anthropomorphic brooches, presides over the table. At once comical and totemic, the brooches seem to be looking at the visitor as she walks through the gallery’s entrance. Surely, the feeling that the pieces are looking back to you is a key element in the arrangement of the exhibition. This feeling is exacerbated by the strategic position of the polished metallic “eyes” that stand out against the leather and fur “faces,” as if the personality of each portrait hinges on the precision with which you place the elements that evoke the eyes. In conversation, Passama explains that she lets the materials determine certain decisions. As for the choice of some technical solutions, she says that, “you can’t do everything well by yourself. If something is beyond my ability, I don’t want to stop it simply because I can’t master a particular aspect. The piece, the work needs to be really good, well done.” The beautiful animality evoked by the materials used and the sensual pleasures of these materials are intensified in this game of recognition. The artist defines the project as a quest to reconstruct the volume of a face using abstract geometrical shapes. The result, which is surprisingly humorous, draws you into a sense of complicity.

Noon Passama
Noon Passama, Left: Portrait # 3, 2013, brooch, calf fur, horse fur, leather, gold-plated silver and brass, remanium, 91 x 93 x 42 mm; Right: Portrait # 1, 2013, brooch, ostrich skin, antelope fur, calf fur, leather, rhodium-plated silver and brass, remanium, 102 x 93 x 58 mm, photo: Severafrahm

Portraits, the works Noon is now exhibiting at Klimt02 gallery, is a continuation on the subject of portraying individuals. In the 2011, she took part in the 35-year anniversary of RA gallery, where she was asked to participate with a multiple. Her work Mr. Paul was a portrait of Paul Derrez, the gallery owner. Following this one, some others friends were added to the series Portraits.

In 2012, Noon Passama was the AJF prizewinner, and she says that gave her the opportunity to take this subject a step further. In her last year of her master’s research, she tackled the ornament again using portraits. In this case, photo portraits commissioned of professional photographers, and she completed editing a book thanks to the money from the prize.

A lady and her daughter say goodbye politely and leave the gallery. I ask them if they liked the work, and they tell me “mmm…yes,” but at first they didn’t know what was exhibited. They came to see an exhibition of jewelry, and it took them some time to realize what it was about. I think they really liked sharing their views on the exhibition. It was a relief for them to understand that the artistic humor is an element of the game, and that nothing too dramatic happens if one decides to exhibited precious furry little creatures. Suddenly, the gallery fills up with visitors. Perhaps it was a good idea to schedule this opening at the same time as the opening of Mirla Fernandes’s Meu corpo, teu corpo at Amaranto, just a two-minute walk away. Although Amaranto gallery space is completely packed with people, you can still see the Scepter intervention on the floor of the room in which the artist invites visitors to take one of the pieces of pottery in exchange for being photographed with the piece. On a shelf in the back of the gallery, you can see Caligrafias do Sopro (Blowed Calligraphies) 2013, a material exploration of the respiratory capacity of the artist, a latex solidification of the blowing action.

Mirla Fernandes
Mirla Fernandes, Mi cuerpo, tu cuerpo [My body, your body], retrospective exhibition, Galeria Amaranto, Barcelona, photos: artist

Friday October 18, 2013, 12:30 hours

Encounter with Marina Elenskaya from Current Obsession at FAD

Current Obsession Poster, JOYA Barcelona 2013
Current Obsession Poster, JOYA Barcelona 2013, Convent dels Angels, FAD, Barcelona, photo: Sasha Sementsev

Marina Elenskaya and Annelisse Pfeifer are in the magazine stand near the back of the great room. The stand commands an interesting overview of the exhibition space from a couple of chairs that two women visitors have currently decided to use for a rest. Marina’s vitality is contagious, and she speaks with great passion for her project Current Obsession, a paper magazine about jewelry and its relation to different fields of art.

“Apart from jewelry artists and critics, we feature material researchers, fashion designers, collagists, and many more,” Marina says. Our goal is to create a different dimension for jewelry in a printed environment. We tell inspiring stories about people and places, touching on subjects such as value, language, and presentation.”

While they are presenting the “Youth” issue (the second issue of the magazine) at the fair, Elenskaya and Mesritz are already working towards the third issue. The magazine’s motto is “Jewelry Is What You Make of It.” It seems to me that this motto could be echoed by most of us in the room. With this on my mind, I go upstairs to visit the rest of the fair.

Today, Jorge Manilla participates in the lecture series. He will talk about his working methods, his Mexican identity, and his role as a South American creator in Europe. In a separate room on the first floor, he displays examples from several of his series of works—some recent pendants alongside rings and brooches from previous series. The artist has created very dramatic scenery with dark curtains and small-lit areas. The environment is of great contrast with the space and the rest of the fair. A girl offers a guided narration through different bodies of work, adding information about the subjects, techniques, and materials. Although all the given information is interesting, the effect of a guided tour breaks the intimate and raw bond that Manilla’s Contemporary Savagery proposes and demands. This work presents research on the topic of violence as a defining element of human nature and of the relationships we build between us.

Jorge Manilla, Contemporary Savagery, JOYA Barcelona 2013
Jorge Manilla, Contemporary Savagery, JOYA Barcelona 2013, Convent dels Angels, FAD, Barcelona, photo: Sasha Sementsev

Upon leaving the fair, I come across Paulo holding a newspaper under his arm. He wears a most beautiful brooch on his lapel and smiles as he shows me a new article published on JOYA. It is the second in the same newspaper in 10 days. This is exceptional exposure, coming from a newspaper not noted for paying attention to contemporary jewelry. These things do not happen by chance. Behind this article there is a promotional job well done.  


  • Gemma Draper

    Gemma Draper was born in 1971 in Barcelona, Spain. After finishing her BA in philosophy, she graduated from the Escola Massana in 2003. She received an MFA in jewelry/metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, in 2009. Recently, she has been appointed as a lecturer and jeweler-in-residence at Teesside University, Mima Museum, in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom. 

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