Jewelery can be worn too

2017-02-21T14:53:29Z (GMT) by Roberta Bernabei
Jewellery endures a dual existence in that despite being made to wear, it can spend much of its life not being worn. This essay therefore explores how the relationship between contemporary jewellery and the human body it adorns has developed in the exhibition setting from the 1980s onwards. It considers the extent to which jewellery artists have challenged and transformed traditional modes of display; and how, in many cases, this has expanded the language of jewellery. This will entail charting the move beyond display cabinets to less predictable means of presentation; some of which have reinvigorated notions of functionality or included performative adornment by models and actors. Central to this analysis will be the approaches of leading jewellery artists such as Ruudt Peters, Christoph Zellweger and Ted Noten, for whom the aesthetics and means of theatrical installation can be as important as the work itself. Alongside other practitioners who have directly replicated the act of wearing in the display setting, and those pieces of jewellery produced with the aid of audience participation. Pivotal works that appear to challenge the conventions of display will be contextualised. For example, Ted Noten’s dispersal of 300 limited edition brooches to the taxi drivers of Middlesbrough, so they could act as ambassadors for Middlesbrough’s Institute of Modern Art’s jewellery collection in 2011. The associated preview event included a drive through at the museum, whereupon the taxi drivers collected their individual brooches. Each consisting of a winged form that stands on the driver’s dashboard to augur safe and speedy transport; and moreover to help “drivers engage passengers in conversation and debate”. Another happening beyond the confines of four white gallery walls was Be Nice To A Girl, Buy Her A Ring, 2009, by Noten. It consisted of a vending machine in a shop window, where viewers could buy a ring for their sweetheart on impulse, whilst out and about in the streets of Amsterdam. Within this framework the opportunity to try on, touch and wear jewellery on display will be investigated, as will schemes that have involved temporarily loaning out contemporary jewellery. An example of the former is Touching Warms the Art, 2008, an exhibition of jewellery at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, Oregon, where exhibitors were invited to participate on condition their works could be held, touched and worn during the show; thereafter, all donated works entered the teaching collection. An analysis of general institutional responses to the demands of contemporary jewellery to leave the vitrine will follow, in addition to the willingness of commercial galleries to aid these developments, such as the inventive Galerie Marzee, in Nijmegen, Netherlands. First source information will be garnered through interviews with jewellers and curators alike and used to underpin the consensus of arguments that emerge, or otherwise. Finally, the invention of new technologies in the production and dispersal of jewellery activity, including rapid prototyping and the internet, will draw the essay to a close, along with a prognosis for future developments in the display of contemporary jewellery.