Helen Britton on curating Schmuck 2022

Published: 01.06.2022
Helen Britton on curating Schmuck 2022.
Helen Britton
Edited by:
Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern
Edited at:
Edited on:
Sungho Cho. Brooch: Combination by Color Weakness, 2020. Recycled Lego Bricks, Silver 925.. 9.5 x 7 x 1.5 cm. Photo by: Kwangchoon Park. Part of: Private Collection. Sungho Cho
Brooch: Combination by Color Weakness, 2020
Recycled Lego Bricks, Silver 925.
9.5 x 7 x 1.5 cm
Photo by: Kwangchoon Park
Part of: Private Collection
© By the author. Read Copyright.

I looked carefully at the images of the pieces and selected them instinctively. The final list revealed some good friends, old enemies, and many strangers. It's hard when you have worked in the field for 20 years and know and are known.
All the materials in the images on the glowing screen before me, dust and diamonds and vegetable juices and fragments of eggs, remind me of the fabulous description by Italo Calvino in Time and The Hunter; 'we are reconstructing the... terrestrial crust of plastic and cement and glass and enamel... and dew and cream and tears.' (1) And for a moment I imagined the pieces analogue, real, forming a great carpet, stitched together, in a bacchanalia of material diversity, a metaphor perhaps for a loaded and important theme.
It is an incredible honour to have been asked to make the selection for a platform that means much to many of us. My choice should in no way be seen as a judgement. This is not a competition; it is a selection of artists at a specific moment in time because on that day certain works resonated with me. I recognised qualities of honesty, and original voices that gave me the impression that they had no other choice but to make the work that way. Clever ideas, ingenuity, perseverance, and rectitude of purpose sprang out. Beautiful stories revealed themselves in considered texts.  There were worthy practices too that I knew well, but I was looking for things I didn't recognise - a shake-up in the mix of a platform whose 60 places would be easy to fill with the same great names year after year.
I looked carefully at the images of the pieces and selected instinctively. The final list revealed some good friends, old enemies and many strangers. It's hard when you have worked in the field for 20 years and know and are known. The pressure of obligation is terrible, and to rise above this was my greatest challenge. And lets face it; it is very easy to make jewellery. It is also no surprise though that it is hard to make good jewellery. And so difficult not to make something that looks like Art Jewellery. As this field has snowballed in the last 20 years, formulas have developed and can be traced from their inception along their subsequent path through our world like a story retold but not lived. It is the job of an artist however to watch this with measured distance, to give back more than one takes, to keep the field relevant and alive. I have selected the work of some of the artists who do this.
Lastly, I want to recount an often-told story. When I first came to Munich in 1997 because my work was in Talente, the Saturday night after-party included about 30 artists gathered in a small restaurant. People came to Munich because of Schmuck, the exhibition at the IHM. A dedicated international niche that communicated by telephone and letter.  Now we have the beer hall packed full, up to 100+ satellite events, online platforms recommending, organising, driving 26 countries at least, and always room for more, all coming together in a semi-global migration. And that being together tears at my heart and as I write this in lockdown with no certainty that we will in fact be together any time soon. Nevermore than now are we aware of the preciousness of the community that we are part of and the pleasure it brings to be physically together, with the things we make, in one place, at one time; in Munich, at Schmuck.
Helen Britton

(1) Italo Calvino Time and The Hunter 1969 Abacus London pg 12 - 13

About the author

Helen Britton is a Multidisciplinary Australian artist based in Munich, Germany. Her practice creates jewellery and objects, drawings, stencils, and installations, and is informed by popular culture and folk art, disappearing traditions on the backdrop of a strong underlying influence of her natural Australian environment.  Helen completed a Master of Fine Arts by research at Curtin University, Western Australia in 1999, which included guest studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam, and San Diego State University, California. In 1999 she returned to Munich to complete postgraduate study at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2002 she established her Studio in Munich with David Bielander and Yutaka Minegishi. Her work is held in the National Gallery of Australia, The Pinakothek der Modern, Munich, The Schmuck Museum Pforzheim, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, The Hermatige, St Petersburg, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, CODA Museum Appeldorn among others. In 2005 Helen was awarded the Herbert Hofmann prize for excellence in contemporary jewellery and in 2006 the state prize of Bavaria for craftsmanship.