A Critical Goldsmith. An Essay on Kim Buck Jewellery by Jorunn Veiteberg

Published: 29.07.2021
Jorunn Veiteberg
Edited by:
Arnoldsche Art Publiahers
Edited at:
Edited on:
Kim Buck. Object: Salt for One Egg, 2008. 1 Kg silver.. 9.4 cm. Kim Buck
Object: Salt for One Egg, 2008
1 Kg silver.
9.4 cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Excerpt taken from Jorun Veiteberg, ‘The Goldsmith as a Conceptual Artist’, in: Kim Buck: Den ægte vare – The Real Thing, Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 2020, pp. 72–89, here pp. 75–77.

One reason why Kim Buck is so keen to explore the significance and meaning of jewellery has to do with his education and self-perception. He calls himself a goldsmith, not a jewellery artist. Even though he has been a professor of art jewellery at universities of arts, crafts and design in Gothenburg and Stockholm, he himself did not attend such universities. Quite the contrary, he followed the classic training for goldsmiths. After spending four years as an apprentice in Aarhus, he received his journeyman’s certificate in 1982. He then worked at Atelier Max Pollinger in Munich for one year and finished his training at the Institute of Precious Metals in Copenhagen (1983–1985).

Today, Kim Buck is one of the most well-respected artists in his field in Denmark. In 2008 he was included in the group of 275 Danish artists from all artistic disciplines who received the state’s life-long honorary grant – Statens Kunstfonds hædersydelse. It is awarded to artists who have created works of the highest standard. Even though the annual amount of the grant is rather modest and regulated in relation to the artist’s other earnings, it means long-term financial security. He was therefore provoked when the governing party Venstre (Left, Denmark’s Liberal Party) the same year proposed abolishing the lifelong annual grant. ‘They get money for some good dinners at some expensive restaurants. And what cultural wealth does that give the citizens?’ asked the party’s cultural spokesman. (1) Kim Buck’s reply was to make a fictive medal. One side is engraved with the name ‘Statens Kunstfond’ and a royal crown; on the other side was the text ‘Til ære og hæder’ (For honour and recognition). I write ‘was’, past tense, because a big bite is taken out of the medal such that it is divided in two. Only the word æder (eat) remains. In the final chapter of the story, the grant ended up not being abolished.

The year 2008 also marked the unleashing of a worldwide financial crisis. Banks and other financial institutions were hard hit, and the repercussions lasted for several years. Nevertheless, in Denmark it was primarily a crisis ‘in first class’, and many bank directors and business leaders received handsome sums as parting gifts. Kim Buck commented on this with the work Salt til et æg (Salt for One Egg). He used a kilo of silver to make a bar with an indentation that holds enough salt for a single egg. Like so many times before, he made a twist on a familiar idiomatic expression: in Danish, ‘not having salt for an egg’ means you live on a subsistence income. This reminder – and its opposite – are activated through the title.

Kim Buck, The Human Touch, 2008. Fine silver, standing beaker.

Kim Buck is a member of Copenhagen’s Guild of Goldsmiths, which has existed without interruption since 1429, and of the exhibition group Danish Silversmiths, established in 1976. He is therefore intimately acquainted with his field’s traditions and mindset. He is very aware that the more commercial part of the industry thinks it is nonsense to use paper as material, and he knows he challenges other silversmiths when he creates holloware without ever using a hammer. One example of this type of work is Human Touch. It was made as a reaction to the slogan ‘from research to invoice’, which Denmark’s Minister of Science Helge Sander launched in the early 2000s. Kim Buck sees many parallels between artistic practice and basic scientific research; he recognises the pressure on professionals in both fields to produce research that can be easily applied in society and be commercially successful. Human Touch consists of several beaker forms that symbolise laboratory work yet which cannot be used for anything. The beakers are made of silver, but the technique is not one that a traditional silversmith would use. In the manner of a goldsmith, he has soldered the many parts together to create a three-dimensional form.

Kim Buck. Pendant: Heart of Steel, 2010. 1 Kg of Steel.

This familiarity with the rules and conventions of the silversmith / goldsmith profession is applied to the full in his jewellery and objects. At the same time as he enters into dialogue with the repertoire of recognisable forms, he subjects them to a twist that then creates distance between them. This double gaze – viewing his profession from the inside and outside simultaneously – recurs through-out his production. Even though he also wants to make jewellery that can function as understandable codes in the social game, it is, for the artist, insufficient to reproduce clichés. Kim Buck’s use of the heart motif can exemplify this. Goldsmiths earn well from the status that jewellery has received as a carrier of symbols in connection with special occasions in life. Not least, jewellery plays a central role in expressing emotional bonds, and the heart has become a universal symbol for love. Kim Buck has made many hearts, but they are anything but sentimental. One pendant has the title Hjerte af stål (Heart of Steel) and weighs almost a kilo, while one small brooch is called Teflonhjerte (Teflon Heart). The choice of materials says it all. A heart of steel tolerates everything, and a heart made of Teflon-coated silver is completely insensitive since nothing can attach itself to the non-stick surface. In contrast to these two hearts in grey tones, he has made numerous small heart pins in bright colours. They Come in All Colours is the title of this series, and underlying the pins is the desire for a society that can accommodate ethnic diversity.
Kim Buck. Brooch: Teflon Heart, 2009. Teflon coated silver.

(1) Quoted in Andreas Relster, ‘Kampen mod Kunstfonden anno 2008’, Information, 28 February 2008. See: kampen-kunstfonden-anno-2008?lst_tagmst (last accessed 2 November 2020).


About the author

Jorunn Veiteberg
is from Norway but lives in Copenhagen in Denmark. She is an art historian, who works as a writer and curator. She has contributed to many books on contemporary jewellery, and her latest book is about her own collection of jewellery: The Jewellery Box (Arnoldsche 2021).