Contemporary Jewelry Designers Join Their Forces Against COVID-19

Article  /  Review   KittiMayer
Published: 19.06.2020
Contemporary Jewelry Designers Join Their Forces Against COVID-19.
Art Jewelry Night Budapest, Kitti Mayer
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Brooch: Below the Surface by Orsolya Nemeth. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Hungary, 2020.
Brooch: Below the Surface by Orsolya Nemeth. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Hungary, 2020

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What can an artist do in the midst of the pandemic when it’s the least likely that people would spend their money on artworks or unique design bags? Well, a lot more than you’d think. Several initiatives were launched following the lead of the online charity auction Crown Jewels Funding Italy originally launched in Italy in an additional six countries, including Hungary and Brazil (the auctions of the latter will end in the upcoming days). The organizers of the Italian auction and those of the Hungarian CROWN / JEWELS auction shared insight on their projects.
If we only had to highlight a single positive outcome of the situation brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, we would have to go with the spectacular manifestation of the people’s willingness to help. As the virus spread from one country to another like a wildfire, various charity initiatives, grassroots movements and fundraising campaigns were launched, comprised of people who wanted to offer a helping hand to those in need selflessly. Just as the world was suddenly closing down due to the restrictions and lockdowns imposed, it also opened up at the same time: the artists and cultural consumers stuck at home had no other choice but to move and adapt everything that normally happens within the walls of concert halls, theaters, galleries and cafés to the online space. As a result of the undesired constraints, half the world had to make manage their lives via computer screens,which are quite capable of holding business and casual meetings smoothly, but the actual process of working and designing became quite challenging, especially amongst jewelry designers. These designers could not visit their workshops, or were stuck with the impromptu work stations created in their homes, as well as with the materials, tools and equipment they had on hand.
Everyone tries to help in their own way if there is trouble. I was thinking about what I could do to help as a jewelry designer and goldsmith in such a situation - explains one of the originators of Crown Jewels Funding Italy, János Gábor Varga, a Hungarian-born designer who has lived in Campo Ligure in North Italy for the past fifteen years. Italy was right in the middle of the epidemic when the thought of auctioning was conceived in the mind of Milan-based jewelry designer Valentina Barella. Soon Valentina and János came up with the actual course of implementation together, and they also invited their colleague from Genoa Elena Martinelli to plan and execute the project. The model was relatively simple: creating a public group on Facebook, filling it with the jewelry of designers joining voluntarily (in the form of photos and brief descriptions in Italian and English), announcing the exact date of the auction, selecting the beneficiary organization and last, but not least, recruiting bidders.

Brooch: Flatten the Curve by Janos Gabor Varga. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Italy, 2020

Necklace: Fishkiss by Kinga Huber. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Hungary, 2020

A total of 268 artworks were offered for the auction held between March 24 and 26, not only by Italian designers, but artists of various nationality living in Italy, and many designers joined the initiative from other European and Asian countries, too, including the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. In order to qualify as an offeror, designers had to send good quality and expressive photos of the piece of jewelry offered, and they also had to ensure that they themselves would take care of delivering the piece to the winning bidder at their own expenses. The organizers designated the Italian Red Cross as their primary beneficiary, but they also wanted to offer a choice to the bidders, therefore, they complemented the list of possible beneficiaries with smaller hospitals and other humanitarian organizations, too. 80% of the pieces of jewelry offered were sold during the two-day auction, thus generating a total of EUR 21,378 in proceeds. There were also some people who contacted us after the online auction was closed saying that even though they missed the auction, they still want to support the good cause, so the final sum raised amounts to EUR 21,880 - explains János, who also joined the offerors himself: he offered a brooch made of thuja and silver named Flatten the Curve, and he also bid for a special piece, the Archeologia personale ring of Italian designer Daniela Massa.

Ring: IKIIKI by Kinga Horanyi. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Hungary, 2020

After the roaring success of the Italian project (and following its lead), local jewelry designers also held their own auctions first in Spain and Portugal (10-15 April), then in Peru (20-22 April), in Argentina(15 April - 26 May), Hungary (11-16 May), the auction in Brazil is currently being held (6-10 June), and the event in Mexico was even extended until 14 June. János actively cooperated in the organization of each auction as a consultant and helped in the promotion. Most curators of the auctions gave mutual help to eachother. In the course of the events held so far, a total of approx. EUR 46,500 was raised owing to the selfless designers and bidders, and Galeria Alice Floriano will held a 2. etap in Brazil. And even though these events were held separately in each country, the members of the jewelry designer community not only joined the auctions of their own countries willingly, but that of other nations, too. One of the enthusiastic offerors was János Gábor Varga, of course, but he wasn’t alone: out of the Hungarian designers, Ádám Mészáros and Emese Kovács participated in several auctions with their jewelry, while Zsófia Neuzer offered a special ring for the Spanish-Portugal auction displaying the Portuguese sentence reflecting on the coronavirus (Guardo os beijos para depois / Save the kisses for later).

Ring: Save the Kisses for Later by Zsofia Neuzer. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Hungary, 2020

The Hungarian auction was launched by the team of Ékszerek Éjszakája Budapest (Art Jewelry Night of Budapest) with the collaboration of FISE(Studio of Young Designers Association). The group of enthusiastic jewelry designers organizes the Art Jewelry Night of Budapest event series every year, focusing on contemporary jewelry - the exhibitions, workshops and talks are all held under the same theme. As part of the program series scheduled for 15-20th of September 2020, large-scaled main exhibitions and smaller accompanying shows will be organized, and the audience will also get to meet the winning artworks of the international contemporary jewelry competition in the downtown of Budapest.

János Gábor Varga is also an active member of the community of the Hungarian Art Jewelry Night, therefore, when we first heard about the Italian initiative, we knew it instantly that we wanted to organize our own auction - explained Zsófia Neuzer, a pillar of the organization team. Although the fall program series are focusing on more artistic contemporary jewelry, in this auction, the organizers tried to represent more universal pieces so the bidders on facebook could choose easier, and so that they would offer money for jewelry that they will actually wear. We weren’t aiming to display the most provocative pieces in the selection by all means - we wanted to play safe. Even though we also prefer deep meanings and alternative materials in jewelry, precious metals are still the safest bet when it comes to jewelry in context of a wider audition that we can reach through social media, and also encourage them easily to purchase an item. This is what we had to keep in mind in order to reach as many people as possible with our auction and to make them feel addressed and involved so that they would donate happily - the organizers told us. In the course of the auction in May, 69 pieces of jewelry were sold, resulting in a total of EUR 5200 in proceeds, divided between three beneficiary organizations and charity campaigns. We wanted to draw attention to disadvantaged children, as they were hit very hard by the epidemic but cannot do anything to better it - says Nóra Tengely, one of the team members told us. The online learning system introduced in Hungary put the disadvantaged families who have no digital devices at home in a very difficult position. Owing to the successful auction, twelve children received a computer or other similar device allowing them to continue learning with their peers. The rest of the proceeds were donated to organizations aiming to provide help to families living in extreme poverty and those who lost their jobs due to the epidemic.
The founders of Crown Jewels Funding Italy and CROWN / JEWELS organisers hope that the initiatives will continue, and more and more people will follow the initiative launched by the Italians now, in the months following the epidemic, and later on, perhaps with another cause in focus. The Italian team also proposed the idea of an annual event series: a contemporary jewelry auction that would draw the attention of the audience to the most urgent problems of the given period.

Ring by Laura Forte. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Italy, 2020

Ring: Solitaire by Gigi Mariani. On sale at Crown Jewels Auction Italy, 2020

The organizers of the auctions:
Italy: Crown Jewels Funding Italy - Valentina Barella, Elena Martinelli, János Gábor Varga.
Portugal-Spain: JEWELLERS IN AUCTION - Tania Gil, Andreia Gil, Elena Larrén.
Peru: Manos a la Obra - Renata Garcia-Menacho.
Argentina: Joyeria Solidaria Argentina - Maria Cohen Salama.
Hungary: CROWN / JEWELS - auction for children - Zsófia Neuzer, Nóra Tengely, Kinga Horányi, Fruzsi Fekete, Anna Börcsök.
Mexico: Manos que Apoyan- Fernanda Ibarrola.

About the author

The Hungarian Art Jewelry Night started in 2015, with the aim of popularizing the Hungarian jewelry design in a broader circle. Following the previous principles, new perspectives have been evolved. This year, as a result of the positive evaluation of past events and the growing interests in the program, aside from Hungarian artists, foreign participants are also welcomed. We wish to introduce the Hungarian and the Central Eastern European contemporary jewelry design, and the accompanying arts.

Kitti Mayer graduated at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest in 2013 as a design theorist. In her thesis she was focusing on plastic objects' history made in Hungary in the era of socialism. Now she is a freelancer working on several design projects. In her articles published on HYPEANDHYPER online design magazine she is mainly focusing on Hungarian and Central Easter European design brands.