Tuesday, July 31, 2007

diamonds, art and immortality

Damien Hirst - skull

'For the Love of God' - Damien Hirst

Was anyone else listening? Radio National on Sunday afternoon? A program analysing Hirsts' "collaboration" with Bond Street Jewellers Bentley and Skinner? With guest commentator Robert Baines!!

If not, you can download it from here

The focus of last Sunday's Artworks program was on 'collaboration' and featured articles on two performing arts works as well as a conversation between Deborah McCoy and Robert Baines analysing 'For the Love of God' by Damien Hirst (pictured). The work is introduced as "the world's most expensive collaboration" but, while Hirst acknowledges that the piece was produced by Bentley and Skinner, I very much doubt that he would call it a 'collaboration'. In fact in most of the publicity surrounding the work, B&S are simply referred to as "a Bond Street Jeweller". This would seem to imply that what is important is not the skills of the particular maker but the value of their real estate!

It was wonderful to hear a contemporary jeweller's (or as Baines terms it, an "art jeweller's") analysis of this work on national radio. I have read much commentary in the press analysing it in terms of contemporary art practice and contemporary art collecting but it's interesting to not have heard much about it from the contemporary jewellery/craft sector (forgive me if I've missed anything).

On a superficial level the work is intrinsically linked to jewellery practice, but the more I think about it, the more irrelevant it starts to seem. Baines points out that if an artist jeweller had made this piece it would be totally dismissed. And he's right. But as he also points out, the use of precious materials in contemporary jewellery is often subversive; stones are drilled into, set upside down, etc. A contemporary jeweller would not make this work, with it's complete orthodoxy of materials and techniques.

Hirst uses the platinum and diamonds to symbolise perfection and mastery of material and technique. Contemporary jewellers use these materials to question those symbols and to talk about what jewellery is and what it can be.

Hirst is not the first artist to employ 'artisans' to realise his ideas, Jeff Koons being the most prominent. But also, closer to home, Patricia Piccinini's practice is more that of a 'producer', she employs a diverse team of people from digital animators to auto paint artists to produce her art works. Usually these artisans are uncredited. In the case of 'For the Love of God' the crediting of "a Bond Street Jeweller" says less about Immortality (as Hirst states the work is about) and more about hefty price tags and inflated publicity.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


After Amsterdam, I went back to Tallinn briefly to pack up and to say goodbye and then back to Italy to attend a Repousse workshop in Tuscany! (more on that later). I spent a few days in Florence before the workshop started and I was able to visit Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School.


That's Manuel Vilhena on the left and Doris Maninger on the right. Doris and Lucia Massei founded Alchemia in 1998 and it runs as a private, 3-year, full-time study, contemporary jewellery school. The teachers and past lecturers include Manuel (above and previously posted about here) Manfred Bischoff, Giampaolo Babetto, Helen Drutt-English, Arline Fisch and Peter Skubic amongst many other luminaries. The idea of a private jewellery school on this scale seems very odd to an Australian who paid (relatively) little for her education. but when you remember that college fees in America and some European countries are in the tens of thousands it starts to make more sense. Alchimia takes students from all over the world and the language of the school is English.


The physical size of the school is quite small but the workshops are clean, neat and well equipped.


The students were setting up for the graduating show while I was there but unfortunately I was leaving before it opened. A few years ago Alchimia did a collaborative project with The Estonian Academy of Art and the result was an exhibition called Twilight


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Amsterdam delight

I loved Amsterdam.

amsterdam canal.jpg

The last time I went there, I was a pot smoking teenager with no ambition. (just look at me now!) Back then, I loved Amsterdam for a whole lot of other reasons, but this time it was for the concentration of contemporary jewellery, the beauty of the city and how it felt like a ‘toy’ town, the friendliness of the inhabitants and the plethora of kitsch clog souvenirs.


Unfortunately my visit coincided with Object in Rotterdam so both Galerie Ra and Galerie Rob Koudijs were closed – bummer! Rotterdam is only a short train ride from Amsterdam but the exhibition opened 2 hours before my return flight to Tallinn. I got to look in their windows but it’s really not the same.

Another town only a short train ride (an hour and a half) from Amsterdam, is Nijmegen– the home of Galerie Marzee.

Gallery Marzee.JPG

Fortunately Marzee was open and I was able to see exhibitions by Karin Seufert, David Clarke, Wiebke Meurer and Karola Torkos and a show by the students of the Munich Academy.

Gallery Marzee.JPG
that's David Clarke's work in the foreground.

Marzee is amazing. 3 floors of jewellery joy. Including the Marzee collection which is the gallery’s collection of contemporary jewellery on permanent display. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos of the jewellery but the collection is very substantial and I spent a fascinating couple of hours going through the drawers.

Gallery Marzee.JPG
the home of the Marzee collection: over 200 drawers!

I was also able to stock up on some catalogues and I even bought 2 brooches! One by Flora Magi

Flora Vagi - brooch

and the other by Mah Rana.

Mah Rana - Jewellery is Life.jpg
I only got one but it's in a container on a ship steaming it’s way to Melbourne from Europe so I nicked this photo from the innernet.

Back in Amsterdam, Galerie Louise Smit was also open and I was able to see a beautiful exhibition All Else Imaginable by Helen Britton. I am in awe of her imagination. The brooches are seemingly complicated constructions but every aspect is thoughtfully assembled to form these fantastic compositions.

Helen Britton - Blob.jpg

I also managed to spend more of my Euro here and bought a neckpiece by Christoph Zellweger BUT unfortunately it’s in the same container as the Mah Rana pin so I can’t photograph it but it looks something like this.

Christoph Zellweger - rhizome.jpg

And, yes, obviously I'm back in the country and I have so far escaped the depressed hole into which I thought I would fall. There's lots of catch up on the way.