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Indipendently from the objects, their beauty or their characteristics, they must have a value and contents. I could never be part of a project without contents.
Interview part of the Serie under the title Selecting: Communicating Knowledge.
What is the main function of a curator?
The main function of a curator is to nurture culture, to promote the arts and to open new perspective in terms of thinking and understanding. The essence of my work is to generate value as contents, doing research, supporting talents and contributing to the enhancement of jewelry design in the public perception. Each object must represents its time and a curator should be an interpreter of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of time. According to this the Vicenza Museum of Jewellery is not only the first museum in Italy entirely dedicated to jewellery but also the first one to be devoted to the different contexts of jewellery. The museum, which opened in December 2014, features nine rooms focused on different contexts of jewellery. Each section — the themes are symbol, magic, beauty, function, art, fashion, design, icons and future — is curated by an expert: the design section by the Dutch designer Gijs Bakker; symbol by Sotheby’s and the Christie’s expert Stefano Papi; beauty by Franco Cologni, the Richemont chief executive, art by Graziella Folchini Grassetto, the Padua art jewellery gallerist. The themes are permanent, but a new group of curators will rotate into the spots by year’s end in order t provide different points of view on the main jewellery contexts.
Curator first came into use as meaning overseer, however in 21st century, a curator is probably best known as a ‘multitasked’ for an exhibition, what do you consider yourself in this position as a freelancer?
Multitasking is one of the characteristics of our time and consequently it involves curating too. As professor of Jewellery Design at the Polytechnic University of Milan I have the great privilege of dealing with young and talented generations of designers. They inspire me a lot, providing energies and insights that converge in my exhibitions and publications. Moreover I’m also a researcher and director of the Jewellery Museum in Vicenza, activities that are linked to multitasking as a driver for learning and thinking.
The same museum is the result of the multitasking attitude. It exists thanks to a private institution, the Vicenza Fair, that both with the public, the mayor of Vicenza, funded the restoration of the wonderful Palladian Basilica for supporting jewellery. Now it’s essential to combine people and ideas to generate innovation and culture. Jewellery has been for too long separated by its contexts.
Vicenza, Museum of Jewellery
How has the work of a curator changed in the last years?
What changed is not the role of the curator but the context, the way of doing research, to exhibit and to communicate its results. Internet definitely changed the world, jewellery included. Blogs like yours and social media have defined not only the new jewellery scenarios but also a new way of looking at jewellery. The hype that new media have brought upon jewellery designers and goldsmiths in such a short time is undoubtedly the most significant turn of the last century. A community without geographical borders has been formed and has brought to light a global need of communication in a discipline which is unbearably isolated and isolationist, submitted to stagnation which is at once formal, material, technological and relational. Thanks to the social media and to the blogs the goldsmith population has opened up to the web's open source and is overcoming its diffidence of plagiarism in favour of the circulation of a common vision. And not only in the hope of selling, rather for the impelling need to share and to empower ideas and knowledge.
- Curate something, a book, an exhibition, an event, is something deeply individual and lonely, you are alone with your research
What is the favourite / dislike part of your work?
The beginning and the end are my favourite parts of the curatorial process because I am always excited to start something new, to discover and share new contents, to meet new people and new ideas, and the end because during the opening of an exhibition or the presentation of a book I realize all the work I have done and I can feel the enthusiasm of the people for jewellery. There is an other aspect I appreciate a lot. Curate something -a book, an exhibition, an event- is something deeply individual and lonely, you are alone with your research, its time, its protagonists, its story and at the end all this goes public, the results of your research are shared with the public and they leave you. I like this dualism. On the other hand is very tiring for me to deal with money and fund raising for exhibitions and publications but I realize it is part of the job.
Regarding to curatorial process, how does an idea usually start for an exhibition? And how do you develop it?
Curating is deeply connected with research. I love doing research, going inside history and criticism, building interpretations, finding characters, stories and objects. Research is the starting point and it is composed by a system of connected and sequential actions, form the analysis to the sources, from the writing to the communication of the outcomes.
So for me, being a curator, is the natural evolution of doing research. Curating exhibitions is the visible part of the intangible world of research.
Chi ha paura? exhibition, with Gijs Bakker, Vicenza, 2011
An exhibition, event, meeting... that has impressed you specially?
The Frick Collection, even if it is not a temporary but a permanent exhibition but has the best curatorial approach I have ever seen. It is a magic place in which painting, architecture, furniture and decorative arts are harmoniously combined together without categorization, hierarchy and limits. It is the result of the personal style of Mr Frick and express his research and taste.
- My goal was and still is, to figure out new scenarios for innovation and to link jewellery to other disciplines and contexts.
How do you feel curating contemporary jewellery?
When I approached jewellery, in the 90s, it was neglected by designers and it was a niche for craftmen. Jewellery in italy was related to luxury and consequently considered something not relevant for the project culture. My exhibition at the Triennale in 2003, was the first after 40 years to present jewellery in the temple of the Italian design. Right now “Brilliant” the exhibition i’ve curated for the XXI International Triennale brings back jewellery with the arts after 1972.
My goal was and still is, to figure out new scenarios for innovation and to link jewellery to other disciplines and contexts. Context is my keyword. Analyzing the contexts for changing behaviours is the lesson of the Italian masters of design to whom I use to refer. In this perspective industrial design, fashion, craft and manufacturing are just different contexts of jewellery and I love to study their characteristics in order to integrate traditions in a contemporary aesthetics.
- Preciousness can be related to the materials, and in this case it is a gift of nature, or to the immateriality of the design.
What do you thing is the most interesting thing that you helped to make happen?
The majority of the jewellery curators come from studies in the History of Art. I have a different background. I got a master degree in architecture and a phd in design. That means I come from the world of making and I’m familiar with the concepts of innovation and cross fertilization. I introduced in Italy the idea of jewellery as a precious object not only in terms of material but also in terms of creativity and design. Preciousness can be related to the materials, and in this case it is a gift of nature, or to the immateriality of the design. Furthermore I’m a natural knowledge broker. I think that jewellery is a too close world and I like to establish link between jewellery talents. This is why in my last exhibition for the XXI Triennale di Milano, Brilliant! The futures of Italian jewelry, I decided to present very different types of jewellery. Fine jewellery with pret-a-porter jewellery, handmade pieces with 3d printed objects, costume jewellery with embedded technologies....
Vicenza, Museum of Jewellery
What has been your most memorable response by a colleague to an artwork shown in an exhibition curated by you?
One week ago Brilliant was reviewed by the New York Times, that in an article highlighted the strenght of the curatorial approach of the exhibition. I consider this as a great sign of appreciation since now many exhibitions does not seem to have a curator!
The curatorial project you could never made up?
I could never made up a curatorial project that don’t generate culture and curiosity. Indipendently from the objects, their beauty or their characteristics, they must have a value and contents. I could never be part of a project without contents.
Alba Cappellieri is Full Professor of Jewellery Design and the Head of the Fashion Design Degree at the Politecnico of Milan. Her field of interest is focused on contemporary design with a specialization on jewelry design and right now she is investigating the relationship between jewelry and interaction . She does research for several jewellery brands and has curated seminal international exhibitions. From 2014 she is the Director of the Jewellery Museum in Vicenza and President of the Women Jewellery Association Italy. She is the author of several publications including “Tweetieth Century Jewellery, from Art Nouveau to Contemporary Design" Skira 2010. Her theoretical contribution to jewelry is based on the idea of pluralism, to built a bridge between different jewelry contexts. Her claim is " There is no universal, absolute or all inclusive definition of jewellery, but multiple conceptions, values and meanings related to time, culture, context. Each object must represent its time. Jewellery included."
Twentieth Century Jewellery, from Art Nouveau to Contemporary Design, Skira 2010
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