Munich plays a prominent role on the international jewellery scene. This is in part because it hosts the special show SCHMUCK (that’s the German word for jewellery) at the leading trade fair for the skilled crafts sector «Handwerk & Design»: the most innovative creations of artistic jewellery d’auteur have been presented here for over 60 years. This year, after a break of two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, SCHMUCK is taking place from 6 to 10 July 2022 in hall B5 of the Munich Exhibition Centre.
Photo: Ring by Karl Fritsch, image rights: Karl Fritsch
More than 60 years after it was founded in 1959, SCHMUCK at «Handwerk & Design» is still the most important show for contemporary artistic jewellery. Artists, gallery owners, collectors and jewellery lovers travel from all around the world to attend this “summit of the goldsmiths”. They do so because every year the very best examples of this particular artistic genre can be found on show here: an astonishing mix of innovation, craftsmanship and beauty.
The special show has been curated by renowned Australian artist Helen Britton. She selected 63 works for the show from a total of 670 applications from 43 countries. These include established names, but also many young, still unknown designers.
The selection shows how different the items can be. Alongside traditional jewellery materials like gold, silver, pearls, glass and enamel, many unconventional materials are once again to be seen: eggshells and compressed dust, reindeer leather and Lego bricks, paper and aluminium, frog skin and coal. In contrast to jewellers’ jewellery, the material value of a piece of jewellery d’auteur plays hardly any role at all. Instead, it is the artistic idea and the visual result that are important.
An example of this is the work “fool’s gold” by Bettina Dittlmann. The jewellery artist from Lower Bavaria focuses on refining non-precious materials. Her extremely complex brooch is made from pyrite, otherwise known as “fool’s gold”, soldered iron wire and a disc magnet as its base. The exact appearance of the brooch in the end is left to chance: the individual components are simply thrown onto the magnet. And with a single swipe of the hand, it can all be wiped off again. In this way, the artist has created a brooch that represents transience and the current uncertainty in politics and society.
The works of Karl Fritsch, who is originally from the Allgäu region of southern Germany and is now based in New Zealand, bang the drum for jewellery d’auteur. Fritsch is known for his “punchy” style. At SCHMUCK 2022 he is exhibiting a ring that forms a platform for a rectangular plate. This surface is bustling with precious stones of all imaginable colours and qualities: a wild tumult of artificially produced sapphires and genuine moonstone, some polished, some rough. This ring does not want to be beautiful or valuable. It stands for freedom, individuality and humour!
The term jewellery d’auteur is analogous to that of film d’auteur. The works are based on the personal thoughts and experiences of their creators. The personality of the artists produces an unmistakeable style.
This is true of the necklace created by Italian artist Annamaria Zanella. Her “Malinconia” (melancholy) necklace relates to the coronavirus pandemic and the long, hard lockdown in her home city of Padua. Instead of being interconnected as they usually are in a necklace, the individual links of the chain are separated – with a thin, golden rod holding them apart. The actual display elements of the piece of jewellery are designed using simple material in the tradition of arte povera. The artist has used a steel mesh that is used as a filter in industry. It is very light and flexible, but also sturdy, especially when it is pleated. The deep lapis lazuli blue is reminiscent of medieval paintings in which the sky and the main characters were “ennobled” with the aid of the expensive blue paint.
The necklace created by the Augsburg-born Carina Shoshtary produces an almost mystical effect. Parts of her work are drawn using a 3D printing pen. Like a glue gun, the heated material flows out of the tip of the pen before it solidifies. Carina Shoshtary uses PLA, a plastic made from renewable raw materials such as, for example, corn. Like Shoshtary, many artists now use sustainable materials. Unlike traditional plastic, PLA looks more like mother-of-pearl or ivory. The artist has gradually created the desired form from thousands of these thin strips of plastic.
A work by the Berlin-based South Korean Coco Sung highlights the functions jewellery still has for many people today. “Monstranz Amulett” (monstrance amulet) is the name she has given her lavish necklace made from copper, brass, wood, Swarovski crystals and seeds. With its sun rays, the monstrance personifies the desire to display that is inherent in the wearing of jewellery. The idea behind the amulet, according to the artist, is that an object can protect against harm or bring luck. A little dash of magic is likely to be involved in many people’s choice of jewellery.
Spaniard Edu Tarín works at the limits of what is technically feasible. He has cut a pendant from a piece of turquoise agate. Stones traditionally play an important role in jewellery. The form of this stone is, however, unconventional, the hard material looks as though it has been bent. The negative form, in other words, the stone from which the pendant was cut is part of the artwork. It shows that every action has consequences: removing something also always means creating a space.
Alongside the above-mentioned examples, SCHMUCK 2022 is exhibiting dozens of other items of contemporary jewellery d’auteur, some of which are political, some very personal, some playful and shrewd, some serious and critical of society. All the works are wearable as the relationship with the wearer and the body plays a significant role in jewellery d’auteur. At the same time, the pieces are never simply items to be worn, but are always works of art.
The exhibition “Klassiker der Moderne” (modern classics) functions as a small special show within the main special show SCHMUCK. This year, the exhibition is dedicated to the world-famous jewellery artist Robert Baines. The Australian is one of the world’s leading researchers of archaeometallurgy: a modern alchemist whose extensive knowledge of metal processing forms the basis of his unconventional jewellery.
Other international jewellery art will be on display at the FRAME stands: some of the world’s most important jewellery galleries will gather here, from established members of the scene like Galerie Marzee from Amsterdam, Platina from Stockholm and Rosemarie Jäger from Hochheim through to entirely new galleries, for example, from Paris.
The special show SCHMUCK is sponsored by the Munich-based foundation for the applied arts Benno and Therese Danner’schen Kunstgewerbestiftung. The exhibition is also funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy.
Photo: “Monstranz Amulett” necklace by Coco Sung. Image rights: Karin Seufert