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.
- Belief & Magic – the kingfisher feather pieces were utterly gorgeous, and the inclusion of quite a broad group of pre-industrial cultures was great to see
- Love & Death
- Nature & Culture
- Style & Revival
- Gold & Identity
- Status & Wealth
- Men & Adornment
- Modernity & Change
- Evolution & Revolution
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