Celebrating Art Jewellery

Editorial for Norwegian Crafts Magazine 5/ 2012: Nordic Jewellery Special

From the Coolest Corner – Nordic Jewellery is a major exhibition that starts in Oslo in January 2013 and then travels to Denmark, Sweden and Finland before ending in Munich, Germany, during the week of Schmuck in 2015. Schmuck is, as you might know, considered one of the most important venues for showing art jewellery, and to hold a show of contemporary Nordic jewellery there will no doubt attract a great number of visitors, many of them professionals.

From the Coolest Corner grew, according to the project’s website, out of ‘the successful Nordic jewellery exhibitions in 1996/7 and 2002/3’. These ‘triennials’, as they were also called, were meant to orient the public about developments in the field of jewellery in the Nordic countries.i

Like From the Coolest Corner, these earlier exhibitions were juried, and according to Jan Lohman, who wrote in the catalogue for the 1st Nordic Jewellery Triennial, the selection for the first exhibition was ‘based on attitudes and modes of expression found in contemporary experimental jewellery-making’. These, he asserted, were characteristic for the countries from which the artists came, or they reflected trends that were ‘typical of contemporary jewellery-making’.

«Nordic jewellery has retained its distinctive character, with roots in functionalism and Scandinavian Design»

Christer Johnson

In the catalogue for the 2nd Nordic Jewellery Triennial, Christer Johnson stated that ‘Nordic jewellery has retained its distinctive character, with roots in functionalism and Scandinavian Design. Its jewellery is often characterised by an aesthetic approach, a restraint and a close link and subjection to the human body.’ While the first triennial was a systematic look at contemporary Nordic jewellery, the second triennial focused on ‘the new design jewellers [who] emerged in the course of the 1990s’.ii

The 1st triennial was hosted by Denmark and the 2nd by Sweden. Both shows travelled to the other Nordic countries and became important points of reference for the jewellery field in the Nordic countries as a whole. From the Coolest Corner – Nordic Jewellery can in many ways be viewed as the 3rd triennial, given how it shares aims and has a similar format to the earlier shows. Furthermore, the jury has used a similar application process for selecting participants. According to the FCC website, ‘[t]he exhibition will feature the newest and most advanced of Nordic jewellery’, and as with the two previous exhibitions, it will travel to the other Nordic countries, possibly becoming a new point of reference for contemporary Nordic jewellery.

«The selection shows that Nordic jewellery has an international appeal and has become cool indeed.»

Liesbeth den Besten and Widar Halén

But despite the many similarities, From the Coolest Corner – Nordic Jewellery does not call itself a Nordic triennial. Its independent identity is confirmed by Liesbeth den Besten and Widar Halén in a press release on behalf of the jury:

‘The jury was primarily looking for contemporary high quality work, reflecting some of the main ideas in art jewellery of today. It should be good, interesting, diverse and preferably outstanding. We did not look for “the typically Nordic” since this easily could become a cliché. The jury did not take into account the former Nordic exhibitions, because there is no need for repetition. The selection shows that Nordic jewellery has an international appeal and has become cool indeed. The number of participants from the various countries reflects the status of art jewellery in these areas, as well as the number of inhabitants and good schools in the Nordic countries. The Baltic countries were also asked to participate, but we found that only Estonia has an art jewellery milieu of an international standard.’

From the Coolest Corner – Nordic Jewellery will open in the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo on 19 January 2013. In connection with the exhibition there will be a parallel programme that includes the exhibitions Below Sea Level – Jewellery from the Netherlands curated by Liesbeth den Besten at Gallery Format; Natural Wonders by Ingjerd Hanevold at Kunstnerforbundet; KL!NK & Friends present The Black of Night; and Galleri Marzée (NL) presents Young Nordic Jewellers at Oslo National Academy of the Arts. The Cloud, the Wave and the Koi Remix by Camilla Luihn will be on show at RAM Gallery, and Aftermath of Art Jewellery will open at Vigeland Museum. Other choice venues in Oslo will also feature art jewellery. In addition, there will be a conference at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, 17 – 18 January 2013.

With From the Coolest Corner – Nordic Jewellery as the framework, NorwgianCrafts.no devotes an entire issue to contemporary art jewellery.

i From the preface of Nordisk smykkekunst/ Nordic Jewellery, 1. Nordiske Smykketriennale, Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busch AS, Copenhagen, 1995.
ii From the preface of 2. Nordisk Smycke Triennal/ Nordic Jewellery, Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busch AS, Copenhagen, 2001.