Retrospective survey of Bakker's jewelry design
Exhibition / 25 Sep 2005 - 01 Jan 2006
SM’s – Stedelijk Museum
Artist listGijs Bakker
Designer Gijs Bakker (1942) is considered to be a pioneer in the field of jewelry design. He can be proud of his long, productive career, which is by no means at an end. The SM’s – Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch – owns an important collection of Bakker’s jewelry and will pay exclusive attention to this aspect of his design work in a retrospective exhibition. This exhibition and the accompanying publication have not been prompted by an anniversary or any other occasion meriting commemoration. According to the museum, ‘It is the consistent quality of his designs and the huge influence and significance of Gijs Bakker in this field that justify a retrospective exhibition at the moment.’
Trained as a jewelry designer at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, this discipline has always remained the ‘core-business’ in Bakker’s career. He quickly made his mark on the development of jewelry design in the Netherlands. Initially working with Emmy van Leersum (1930-1984), he wrested jewelry from its purely decorative status and gave it a meaningful place in the world of art and design.
His attention to the concept and intrinsic meaning of jewelry has remained constant and is manifested as a constant factor in his oeuvre. Gijs Bakker is not searching for the ideal piece of jewelry. On the contrary, his designs stem from his interest in what happens in the world around him. He repeatedly seeks an appropriate form and experiments with materials and techniques.
Gijs Bakker seldom designs a single piece of jewelry but virtually always produces a series in which one idea is developed in different ways. This is sometimes a formal starting point, as in the series of aluminium jewelry (1967-71). Most of his work, however, is based on a theme, such as the enormous neck jewelry comprising laminated photographs of regally worn necklaces (1977), the series of brooches combining photos of sports celebrities with precious stones, or the ‘Holy Sport’ (1998) and ‘Car Crash’ (2001) series. In this connection, Bakker’s statement, ‘I don’t wear jewels, I drive them’, is indicative of his engagement with jewelry. A review of the last 45 years produces a fascinating survey that can be read as a cultural diary. A portrait of an era, a mentality can be discerned in each series, which in Bakker’s work is often depicted with a critical undertone.
His constant drive to revitalize his work does not just have a passive, uncontrollable influence on the professional field of jewelry. Gijs Bakker is too strong-willed to leave innovation to chance. In co-founding the Chi Ha Paura…? Foundation, he deliberately created a framework in which he challenges other designers and artists to produce new ideas, materials and techniques. What Droog Design (which Bakker also co-founded) is to product designers, Chi Ha Paura…? is to jewelry designers.
In addition to his unique pieces of jewelry, Bakker repeatedly feels the urge to make mass-produced, well-designed jewelery. Whether he is embracing the ideals of the modernists in this need or whether it is inspired by the idea of democratization that his generation strived for, Gijs Bakker has never limited his activities to his own studio and likewise never extolled fine handwork. With his collaborative projects and urge for renewal, he has always been a cultural entrepreneur to the core.
The work of Gijs Bakker is abundantly represented in the collection of the SM’s - Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch. In addition to the many pieces of jewelry, the collection includes the complete archives relating to this jewelry. His work is one of the reference points for the Dutch part of the jewelry collection of the SM’s.
From the outset Bakker’s work has attracted international attention and it is found in numerous public and private collections. Although publications about his work, such as ‘Gijs Bakker Ontwerper - Solo voor een solist’ (Gijs Bakker Designer - Solo for a soloist) and ‘Objects to use’, do exist, a comprehensive overview of his jewelry oeuvre has been lacking. Bakker’s jewelry has been dealt with in depth in all kinds of publications, both Dutch and international, but until now there was no single coherent review focused exclusively on this specialism. The publication accompanying the exhibition fulfils this need. With an extensive introduction by Ida van Zijl, a complete overview of his oeuvre to date, a biography of the designer and a bibliography, this is a standard work on one of the Netherlands’ most important jewelry designers.
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