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Challenging the châtelaine

Exhibition  /  01 Sep 2007  -  14 Oct 2007
Published: 04.09.2007
Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design
Management:
Merike Alber
Tore Svensson. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005. Steel. Tore Svensson
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005
Steel
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Intro
This exhibition includes jewellery created by seventy eight internationally known artists, role models of their choice reviving the tradition of chatelaine – a waist hung ornament with appendages.
This exhibition re-introduces a curious type of jewellery – the chatelaine, known today as an adornment with several pendants. In the Middle Ages, the French word châtelaine marked the mistress of the castle, with a key ring worn around her waist. Originally, the chatelaine symbolized power, as the owner of it had access to locked doors and the authority to decide and to grant permission. Later the belt piece became common in different strata and took on new forms. Not only keys were worn on the belt, but also clocks, sewing kits, knives and other practical items. The pendants could be elegant luxury items, such as perfume bottles, mirrors, notebooks with ivory leaves, compacts and jewellery. There were chatelaines for dances, housework, culinary activities, wine cellars and royal events; the pendants of the chatelaines showed the trade of their wearer: pincushions, scissors, corkscrews, spoons, and medicine bottles. In the hands of goldsmiths, chatelaines flourished as elaborate commodities that enabled one to practice one's profession better. In the course of time, the châtelaine came to mark the object, not the person. 

Helen Williams Drutt English, one of the most renowned jewellery curators and a collector, invited artists from Europe (including Kadri Mälk, Kristi Paap and Eve Margus-Villems from Estonia), the Americas, Australia and Japan to create chatelaines so that this type of jewellery could acquire a new sheen after its long demise brought on by the short skirts and handbags of the 20th century. The concept of the exhibition is seemingly simple: all the invited artists were free to choose how their chatelaine would look and who would be the role model for the piece. The result was inspiring pieces of jewellery that all had their personal stories

The exhibition features 73 chatelaines from 78 artists (six pieces represent teams of two) who have been inspired by historical figures, contemporary icons, imaginary cartoon characters (such as Shrek), a lover, a wife, a mother, inventors, scientists, literary figures and many other personae. In addition to their works, the artists have prepared short introductory texts that explain their choice of role model. Depending on their role models, the artists have interpreted quite freely the nature and expressive qualities of the chatelaine. It is not necessarily a belt-worn piece at all; it can just as well be a brooch, an earring or a free-standing piece of sculpture. The artists are bold in their choice of materials and the execution of the pieces – collages or montages of ready-made elements, such as pens, spoons, a razor, a condom package, found objects or materials treated in a variety of ways. Fabrics, chains, ribbons, braids and even parts of toys were readily used. Besides metal, the artists also employed wood, clay, plexiglass, silicon, photographs, dough, and even medications. The chatelaine is in fact a material poem or portrait dedicated to a figure, drawing upon the whole arsenal of contemporary art, along with the expressive means of jewellery art.

All chatelaines were made specifically for this exhibition from 2002 to 2006.



Merike Alber 

Remarks

The exhibition was first shown in Finnish Designmuseum 29.09.2006-14.01.2007

Eve Margus-Villems. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005. Horn, gold. Eve Margus-Villems and Helena Tulve. Eve Margus-Villems
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005
Horn, gold

Eve Margus-Villems and Helena Tulve


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Georg Dobler. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006. Silver, rock crystal, brown quartz, citrine. Georg Dobler and Karl Blossfeldt. Georg Dobler
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006
Silver, rock crystal, brown quartz, citrine
Georg Dobler and Karl Blossfeldt
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Kadri Mälk. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006. Coloured cibatool, silver, antique glass, aquamarine. Kadri Mälk
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006
Coloured cibatool, silver, antique glass, aquamarine
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Kristi Paap. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005. Cherry stones, coral beads, nylon, thermoplastic, pigment, silver.. Kristi Paap
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2005
Cherry stones, coral beads, nylon, thermoplastic, pigment, silver.
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Mary Preston. Chatelaine: Miss Chatelaine, 2005. Oxidized silver, dupioni silk.. Mary Preston
Chatelaine: Miss Chatelaine, 2005
Oxidized silver, dupioni silk.
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Vaughn Stubbs. Chatelaine: Mother of Barbie, 2005. Brass, plastic. Vaughn Stubbs
Chatelaine: Mother of Barbie, 2005
Brass, plastic
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Wendy Ramshaw. Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006. Painted metal. Wendy Ramshaw and Frida Kahlo.. Wendy Ramshaw
Chatelaine: Untitled, 2006
Painted metal
Wendy Ramshaw and Frida Kahlo.
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