As it stands, CODA possesses the largest collection of contemporary jewellery in the Netherlands. This particular museum, with art historian Carin E.M. Reinders at the helm, takes collecting jewellery very seriously. ‘We think it is important not only to support artists by acquiring their work and adding it to our already vast collection, but to really do something with this collection, to actively display it, and show the work under a different light each time’ – comments the museum’s director.
The new position of a jewellery curator, currently occupied by a young museum conservator Anne-Karlijn van Kesteren, was created by CODA in conjunction with Museum Arnhem: a gesture that speaks about the intention to create coherent and focused presentations of the collection. The aim is to highlight the complex facets of the work, and to make connections via different contexts, themes, materials, and manufacturing processes. One of such presentations, Big, Bold & Beautiful, opened on October 8th, showcases pieces that question wearability as an essential characteristic of jewellery. With their work, Nina Sajet, Felieke van der Leest, Willemijn de Greef and others, demonstrate that a statement is to be made with contemporary jewellery, and that message is where this exhibition finds its focus. Here, questions of comfort and wearability remain secondary, while the sheer bold nature of these jewels is highlighted.
Contemporary jewellery is often referred to as a conversation piece, and the gutsy eye catchers in this exhibition are exactly that – reasons to start communicating. Whether worn on the body, displayed on the wall or inside a showcase, they prompt awe and curiosity. People who often wear jewels like these will know the feeling: a stranger in a public space first notices the piece, and their facial expression immediately transforms into that of unmistakable interest, which more often than not leads to a question or a comment.
With thousands of jewellery pieces in their collection, it is interesting to know more about the museum’s collecting approach: How do they choose the pieces that will join the collection? When it comes to strategy, it seems that CODA has chosen to index the history of contemporary jewellery by following up on a development of a few dozen of so-called principal artists. From that international group, the museum casts a larger net of connections to their students and/or aesthetic followers, believing in a certain handwriting inherent in generations of artists to follow. The principal artists are, in that way, appointed as historic influencers of the field: through their work and their philosophies they build a narrative that the museum follows. By introducing those younger names into the collection, the museum weaves a thread that connects the work through time, a kind of timeline or zeitgeist of a certain era. It is an interesting approach to capturing different movements within the field. This remains a hard thing to do, since jewellery artists often see themselves as idiosyncratic makers.
The museum also believes in acquiring legacies of artists that have passed away, as a means to provide insight into the very private and mysterious process of creation itself. These range from playful doodles on paper, to material research, to models, to failures, to final pieces. In this case, the public acquires a rare opportunity to peek inside something quite obscure and normally undisclosed. In 2010, when the museum curated the exhibition by one of Dutch jewellery’s biggest legends and mysteries, Onno Boekhoudt, such an opportunity presented itself.
Boekhoudt is considered a father of what can be understood as one contemporary jewellery’s principal movements – a form of very personal artistic expression, in which deep concentration and research never stop and become the very purpose of the work. He was a profoundly influential maker and educator. Prior to his sudden passing in 2002, he expressed a wish to keep his work and experiments together. He never had, however, the chance to select which of those pieces should be made public, and which were meant to remain unseen. The curators had to make these decisions for him, as his entire studio moved into museum’s archives in twenty or so boxes. The exhibition, titled Work in Progress, The Legacy Of Onno Boekhoudt, Jewellery and Studies was ground breaking in its scope. By showing the work in transition between the maker’s experimental and industrious studio practice against the backdrop of the stark museum presentation, the curators were able to retain a fragile balance between the private and the public realms. In doing so, they invited the viewer to a spirited conversation with an exceptionally talented person, through his work and experiments – something CODA strives to achieve with its curatorial efforts.
One of Boekhoudt’s ideas that could almost be seen as an analogy to the museums’ philosophy is a series of pieces called Room For a Finger. Its shape is a simple square ring, with an outline of a house cut through its wooden core: a roof that encloses a finger just like a ring would. Its simplicity and wittiness, combined with an endless amount of material and dimensional variations, shows how jewellery can be a truly productive and inspiring concept.
Another way in which CODA stays in close contact and supports their principal artists is with a pending series of monographic exhibitions. Most recently, Private Territory in Public – by Lucy Sarneel, and Mooie Stad (Beautiful City) by Annelies Planteijdt are great examples. In November 2017, as part of OBSESSED!, CODA will open its doors once again with another such exhibition called BRON (Source) by Ruudt Peters. This retrospective exhibition showcases the forty-five-year-long career of this exceptional Dutch jeweller and visual artist, and will present different stages of his inquiry into the alchemic meanings of jewellery.
The bubbling mud of hot springs in Beppu, Japan serves as a visual inspiration for BRON’s scenography. Large spatial projections of mud bubbles are beamed down onto the exhibition floor, that displays 126 pieces of jewellery, each placed inside a tailor-made hand blown glass capsule. Each piece is also fitted onto a special mount that allows for the viewer to see it from all sides, as if being suspended in the air. The levels of curating here take on a multimedia exhibition: with three-dimensional objects, QR-codes linked to videos, spatial projections, and most importantly – a lot of room in-between, to wonder and find your own connections to the work. BRON presents an invaluable experience to all those who have been following Peters’ work for decades – collectors, colleagues, and students alike.
With comprehensive exhibition programming like this, CODA invites us to re-imagine jewellery to be much more than a sum of its materials, techniques or styles, but rather an all-encompassing object of power, spirituality, and self-exploration. The overall sense of willingness to keep jewellery relevant in today’s world and sensitive to things that are happening around us, are important aspects in this museum’s practice. On the path toward becoming the jewellery museum of the Netherlands and truly creating room for jewellery among other advancing disciplines, CODA will undoubtedly be faced with tough tasks that demand focus and determination. The museum’s team, however, definitely seems to be up for that challenge, so that we, the visitors, can expect their exciting ideas to come to life.
OBSESSED! Jewellery in the Netherlands is a festival that unites the best events focussing on jewellery – exhibitions, symposia, fairs, book presentations and open studios – into one intriguing programme, put together by Current Obsession.
OBSESSED! runs throughout the whole month of November’17, in various cities across the Netherlands, accompanied by a special free edition of Current Obsession Paper and an interactive webpage.
Big Bold and Beautiful 8-10-2017 until 10-12-2017
BRON by Ruudt Peters 5-11-2017 until 28-1-2017
Vosselmanstraat 299, 7311 CL, Apeldoorn
The Museum is closed on 25 December, 1 January and 27 April
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 10:00-17:30, Sat 10:00-17:00, Sun 13:00-17:00