"Contemporary jewellery is dead", writes Ted Noten in the incipit of his Manifesto on the contemporary jewellery, and he offers a message of paradoxical negative sense which leads us to seriously reflect. In its brevity it is, in fact, a reflection of an alarming trend. The jewel of classical memory had already turned for decades into "something" else: a reactionary onrush, an existential philosophy, a symbol, a challenge.
During the process of emancipation, however, some elements in the flow of creative inspiration are shipwrecked and washed up on the beach of mere eidetic investigation. According to the Dutch designer, who loves to surprise to solicit minds, the flat electrocardiogram of recent productions makes its best impression on the walls of art galleries, put under glass and hung like a dead, expressionless body.
Ted Noten, moreover, is known for his brazen, provocative pieces and not always easy to fit. Its extreme assertion, therefore, is nothing more than the latest proof of arguing to desecrate deliberately?
Partly yes. Partly not.
"Contemporary jewellery is autistic," reiterates in the same essay.
Is the contemporary jewellery really autistic? In the sense of self referential, perhaps?
The jewel, become by this time the result of repeated, introspective retreats, celebrate itself, settle itself, elect itself, Masonicly acclaimed by those few followers who intend and share the same hypercryptical code.
Without wishing to paraphrase the entire Manifesto, it strikes the eye that the exasperated self-isolation of contemporary jewellery and what surrounds it, declares aloud its disappearance.
This is for sure a borderline position, which casts such a clear light on the sad panorama of new jewellery.
However, can we declare art deceased?
From the moment its authors get by - famous, half famous or unknown - the basic axiom predisposes us to decree art existence. Well, the contemporary jewellery is not dead! It's just curled up in an exclusive market hiding to the large public.
In the last year I have dabbled in books, articles, sacred texts, less sacred texts, exhibitions, fairs, goldsmiths, sculptors, connoisseur, critics, pseudocritics, collectors, conscious of having approached and explored only a tiny part of a gigantic, huge iceberg top. It is certain that on the contemporary jewellery rivers of ink have not been exactly spilled, and is equally obvious that there is a big lack of literature given to it. Ted Noten bluntly explicits the continuous decrease in the playfull and intrinsic value of the jewel.
He rocks the boat, causing a fervent dialogue. And that along with some other enlightened specialists such as Liesbeth den Besten and our very active Alba Cappellieri. The sore point of the matter is that in an effort to highlight something valuable, we tend to ghettoize, to make delicious food for just a few palates. The added value of art lies in its disclosure. Art needs an attractive patina that makes it desirable by all. The road to get there is the enlarged information on specific training assumptions.
This is what Alba Cappellieri is building in Italy: a network of contacts among the various representatives to define the action scenario. She has created the conditions for a successful innovation through her studies and an intercommunication project that ranging from crafts to the great chain of industrial design, touching upon fashion, costume, history. The newly formed Jewellery Museum of Vicenza is the proof!
The Italian contemporary jewellery has a long tradition, complex, fascinating and has created both artistic and industrial production entities. Its roots, therefore, are more complex than that of Northern Europe where production is the prerogative only of the individual author. The terms of the equation, however, even if moved, do not change: the great designer Gijs Bakker has never made any secret of how he were disappointed by the elitist allure that a certain type of contemporary jewellery was taking. He has always proposed, in fact, the encounter with the wide-spreading public both in comprehensive and economical terms.
Let's proceed with order.
We, with a bird's eye view from north to south, pass through different approaches and visions.
Northern Europe has a relatively young and vibrant tradition in which the art jewellery is the strong response to the Italian one founded on a rich and multifaceted knowledge acquired in a tormented sequences of changes.
Liesbeth den Besten, classifying the status quo of contemporary jewellery in six types, helps us to get in touch with a world in which, however, definitions cause doubts and uncertainty, but are illuminating to discover that under our eyes unfolds a universe not completely explored.
Contemporary jewellery, Studio jewellery, Art jewellery, Research jewellery, Jewellery design e Author jewellery could be the answer to frequently asked questions that many goldsmiths make desperately trying to find their correct position in a creativity market so difficult to read. Liesbeth den Besten also noted, that in the last fifty years the jewel has become a very personal artistic practice linked to research, closer to photography, installations, video art and performance, despite not having to share with them the same freedom of expression. The visual arts denounce mostly rotten corruption of the world with messages of horror, disgust and aversion. The jewel unlike, in its true language, should keep at least part of its primordial nature as ornament. It should not undress completely. Yet the crazy intuition of someone escapes, anyway, from the typical pigeonholing of analytical minds and offers us a vision of the jewel that with the jewel itself has not much to do except for the noble materials with which it is built. This is the case, I think, of the psyconeuroprovocative works of Lauren Kalman, the finalist at the Art Jewellery Forum Artist Award.