“Schmuck”, which has been held in Munich since 1959, has been cancelled again for this year. Schmuck” is held every year at the beginning of March, and I was looking forward to it very much as it comes with the arrival of spring. It’s a shame. The event was founded by Dr. Herbert Hoffmann and since 1973 the Herbert Hoffmann Prize has been awarded to outstanding jewellers from all over the world. In addition to the fairgrounds, more than a hundred large and small exhibitions of contemporary jewelry blossom all over Munich like crocuses blooming from unexpected places.
Today, let’s focus on jewelry.
“Schmuck” as a contemporary jewelry event is surprisingly unknown to many people living in Munich. It’s ironic that this event, which is the annual meeting event worldwide for contemporary jewelry artists, students, teachers and collectors, is virtually unknown locally. Once a year Munich and some of its galleries and exhibition spaces becomes a glamorous and international place.
So, what is contemporary jewelry?
When one hears the word “jewelry,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably something expensive, made of precious metals and precious stones that have been handed down from generation to generation among royal families, nobility and the wealthy few. These are called fine jewelry and have a strong connotation as a special tool to show power, wealth, and high status. What complements fashion and is essential for a stylish look is what is called costume jewelry. The materials used are relatively inexpensive, but they are decorative and can create a gorgeous atmosphere.
Contemporary jewelry, on the other hand, is a form of wearable art where the artist’s concept is the most important factor, without being limited by the choice of the materials.
The emergence of contemporary jewelry is relatively new. It is said to have emerged after World War II in Europe and the United States at about the same time as a form of self-expression for artists. The world’s oldest jewelry is said to be 100,000 years old, and Neanderthals were already wearing beads and ornaments before they painted rock murals. From that time until the birth of contemporary jewelry, it did not have any meaning as art.
So what was the role of traditional jewelry? I’ll try to divide it into six categories.
1) Amulets were used to ward off evil spirits, had religious significance, and were a tool to pray for one’s safety and health.
2) Portable assets.
The acquisition and exchange of rare items through trade led to the idea of jewelry as an asset and investment opportunity.
3) Expression of status and belonging
Jewelry was used to express status as a member of society or to differentiate oneself from other people. Jewelry has also been used to classify gender, age, and marital status.
4) Memory, memento
When a person receives a piece of jewelry from a deceased person, it plays a role in passing down history and memories.
Rings for instance can be used as a personal seal or as a small but pain-inflicting weapon.
Jewelry as body decoration to catch people’s attention and to feel good and glamorous.
Rather than each of these ways of using jewelry having meaning on its own, their overlapping and intertwining meanings have made jewelry an effective and deeply meaningful adornment since the beginning of history. In other words, the jewelry itself was associated with great aspirations, flaunting of status, etc., and its strong individuality rarely shone a light on its creators, which usually remained unknown.
What has emerged is contemporary jewelry that puts the artist’s intentions, ideas and personality at the center of the piece. Two of the leading figures of contemporary jewelry are Gijs Bakker and Otto Künzli.
Gijs Bakker (1942-) is famous as a product designer and the founder of “Droog Design”. Even if you don’t know his name, you will probably recognize his products when you see them. He tried to promote jewelry as an art form. His necklaces made from stove exhaust pipes attracted a lot of attention.
I don’t need to mention Otto Künzli (1948-). Those who are familiar with the Munich art scene know him well. He was also a great professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich and a respected figure among jewelry artists. His trilogy “Das Ornament” (1983) is a clear example of his strong concept to challenge the three elements of jewelry (color, image, and decoration) that he avoided most at the time. He also argues that contemporary jewelry is a tool to create communication with others by wearing it.
Now, Micheko Galerie has been participating in the “Schmuck” event since 2011 and has introduced several jewelry artists, from Japan, but also from England and Korea.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the 2021 “Schmuck” event has been cancelled, but the gallery will continue to exhibit jewelry as usual.
This year we will have a group exhibition of Mari Ishikawa, Mikiko Minewaki, and Sayumi Yokouchi starting March 9th and ending on March 20th, 2021.
This is an exhibition of works by three female artists who have given form to their ideas by entrusting their thoughts to a type of Japanese poetry called Senryū, which consists of a short sequence of words: 5, 7, 5. I dare not translate any senryū. Instead, I’ll throw out the four key words of the poem to you: home – return – wind – echo.
Now, what will you imagine from these keywords, what kind of jewelry will come to your mind? I hope you will take advantage of the spring weather and visit the jewelry exhibition at Micheko Galerie.