post last updated: 18th November
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post last updated: 18th November
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Jewellery lovers need to see the Powerhouse Museum’s ‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘. It’s astonishing and there are so many pieces from such a breadth of sub-genres.
Exhibition media: “Jewellery has been made and worn for personal, social and cultural reasons through millennia. Styles, materials and practices have varied across time and place, yet the desire to adorn ourselves has been universal.
Jewellery can influence the way people perceive us, make us more attractive, mark special events or symbolise wealth and status. We make, wear, give, receive, collect and express our identity, individuality and creativity through jewellery. It contributes to our spiritual, cultural and emotional well-being.
A fine possession celebrates the central place of jewellery in our lives, from antiquity to the present-day, through a sumptuous selection of jewellery made, worn and collected in Australia.”
The website is excellent and shows selected items from each of the themes in the exhibition.
Within the cabinets where were explorations of sub-themes too … materials, identity (I was exceptionally happy to see Nicole Polentas included here), fantasy (and again I was most pleased Claire McArdle is represented here) …
There are a genuinely impressive number of pieces, with many being loaned from private and other collections. My visit made me want to know more about the oft-mentioned ‘Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences’ … which after only a little investigation it became clear was in fact the parent of the Powerhouse. So I have visited them after all!
It surprised me that there were pieces here from the NGV that I’ve not seen exhibited in our own gallery before – including a stunning opal tiara.
I’m sure others have written, and will write, more eloquently about the structure of the exhibition and other such technical matters. I’ll attempt to list them at the bottom of this post as they arise.
You can see from the images above that the room was dark. Damn dark. Painted black and only with limited lighting on the items.
What is this about? Have curators recently all made a pact to do this (remember the Incas at NGA earlier this year)? I found the darkness disorienting and exceptionally tiring; it was difficult to refocus my eyes after looking at the underlit cabinets to find my way to the next one. It was genuinely disconcerting and exhausting.
The description cards were also a little disappointing with the names of the makers being almost secondary (an example is below). It is in much smaller text than the headline, which was usually a description like brooch or the title of the work, and even came after the materials listing.
In an ante-room there are two cabinets with work of graduates – which is fabulous. And they were well lit; making the discomfort of the main exhibition viewing all the more obvious. The most outstanding from this group was a three brooch group by Andrea Caliguiri (item card above).
It’s a shame that there isn’t a publication associated with this exhibition. Though I wonder, given many of the pieces are loaned, if there just wasn’t time before the opening. Does anyone know if a publication may be coming? What a magnificent opportunity to document such a group … I hope one is forthcoming. Perhaps a kick-starter project would help? I’d totally donate!
All that said, I enjoyed the exhibition and consider it a landmark for jewellery; in fact I mentioned to friend afterwards that I think this is the best gathering of jewellery I’ve ever seen, even better than the V&A (though that could be a little hyperbolic, and it’s only fair to admit that my memory has faded a little on that count).
‘A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity‘ is at Powerhouse Museum (Sydney) until 20th September 2015. I may in fact visit again.
Press / Reviews
18th September: Jewellery gone overboard at Powerhouse Museum? Suits you sir (The Age)
20th September: Nicole Kidman’s Moulin Rouge necklace stars in Powerhouse Museum exhibition A Fine Possession (Herald Sun)
28th September: Sim Luttin, A Fine Possession
1st October: A Fine Possession: Jewellery and Identity Review
25th October: radio interview: Jewellery expert Anne Schofield (one of the key people involved in this exhibition)
12th November: Crikey review (focused on artefacts from tribal cultures)
Update (30th October): make sure you watch Powerhouse Museum’s Facebook page – they’re regularly focusing on pieces from the exhibition.
Update (19th November): interestingly, there is a photograph on the Powerhouse Facebook page in which the floors look so much lighter than I recall from my visit. I wonder if things changed since my visit, or if the photograph was taken before the floor was darkened … or perhaps, my photographs and memory are lying to me!
Update (11th December): I found this interesting piece about the lighting used for the exhibition; it’s great to get an understanding of the remit given and the many considerations. Plus they’ve included some gorgeous photographs of the exhibition.
apparently from some time in December (or so) the exhibition will include a short-term loan from Queen Elizabeth … ooooooh
Hooowee, I’d forgotten how humid Sydney can feel in Spring; but the sun was out and that always makes me happy.
As planned, I popped into Courtesy of the Artist to see the ‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘.
Exhibition media: “The National Contemporary Jewellery Award was started in 1992 by the Griffith Regional Art Gallery to support the development of the National Contemporary Jewellery Collection.”
COTA’s gallery room is a beautiful space.
It was a strange experience though – I think I’ve already seen the pieces (perhaps all; though if not, almost all) online, so seeing them in person wasn’t as much of a thrill as it would be without the prior exposure.
Of course I’m glad I saw them in person – and I really do think that the prevalence of online documentation of exhibitions is completely fabulous (especially for anyone not able to go due to geography or mobility etc) – though this may be something for curators to think about.
I wonder if the ease of seeing pieces online (facebook especially) is taking the edge off the need to visit exhibitions in person? Though I expect that it may also in fact be increasing traffic. Do any gallery staff have a feel for the impact of online photos? As a balance, I would suspect that a few key pieces online would be ideal, with full documentation after the show has closed (oh wait, that’s been the case here, as this is a traveling show!).
Thoughts from more experienced curators, and other exhibition visitors, are most welcome.
Participating artists are:
Highlights for me were:
‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award 2014′ is at Courtesy of the Artist (Sydney) until 1st November 2014.
Update (28th October): It was remiss of me not to link to the Griffith Regional Gallery, where “NCJA is an acquisitive prize sponsored by Griffith City Council and held at Griffith Regional Art Gallery biennially.“. This exhibition showed there 4th – 28th September.
Also, their facebook page is where I saw high quality images of the works.
Recently I was told about wire strung harps, and that while mythology sometimes referred to them as ‘golden’ this may not have been hyperbole but in fact descriptive. What?! Yes, harps may have in fact been strung with gold.
What a fabulous thing.
A little bit of internets reading later, and I’ve found a few articles you may be interested in if you’d like to read more.
An article (2003) by Ann Heymann indicates that an Australian team were the first to practically explore the possibility of precious metal strings, and successfully used silver. Eventually she led a team that strung a specific kind of harp, a clairseach, with gold strings.
Another article (2010) by Cynthia Cathcart explores her own journey to string a harp with (sterling) silver.
Lastly, there’s an article comparing wire-strung and gut-strung harps … probably one for the musically focused reader. In fact the site this article is from is dedicated to harps … for the musician for sure!
So interesting … the second article will be of interest to technical metalsmiths, as it describes various hardness tests etc.
So I’m popping into Sydney for a day-trip later in the month to see some jewellery exhibitions.
Powerhouse Museum’s ‘A fine possession: jewellery and identity‘ is first.
Then the ‘National Contemporary Jewellery Award‘ at COTA.
And M Contemporary ‘Intimately Connected‘.
If I have time I’ll pop into Studio 20/17 of course.
What else should I put on the list?
Update (20th October): maybe I can add Craft NSW ‘Emerging Artist: Craft Award 2014‘
With thanks to a heads-up from the inimitable Zoe Brand of Personal Space Project fame, I’m now aware of a Kickstarter project ‘Shows & Tales‘: the AJF (Art Jewelry Forum) raising funds for a publication focusing on exhibitions.
Naturally I want to be a supporter … not the least because jewellery is my thing, but I’m very interested in reading and thinking about the content. I’m deciding between the various supporter levels, and one of them includes the publication on the AJF website of a brief paragraph about your most important exhibition.
I liked this idea so much I thought I’d write it here anyway. Perhaps there will be more than one when I give the idea a bit more time to sink in … but the first that came to mind was: ‘Ad Astra per Aspera‘ in 2003. I wrote the below a few years ago and I’m not sure I can put it any better.
“When I moved to Melbourne (to study goldsmithing) the first exhibition I visited was the 2003 RMIT Gold & Silversmithing Graduate exhibition ‘Ad Astra per Aspera‘, which translates to ‘to the stars with difficulty’, at the Melbourne Gold Treasury Museum.
This was a key moment for me – I wandered around the exhibits and felt like I was in the right place; that this was something I not only wanted to do, but felt I was able to do, and it made sense to me and almost felt like home.”
… and therefore I now have a new piece to add to my collection: a Helen Britton (obviously!) little sterling silver lucky tooth charm.
A genuinely significant piece of Helen’s is still on my lust-list … soon Karen, soon.