In Conversation with Peter Skubic

Published: 04.04.2016
Peter Skubic Peter Skubic
Sanna Svedestedt
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Peter Skubic. Brooch: Nothing Behind, 2015. Stainless steel. 8.3 x 6.8 cm. Photo by: Petra Zimmermann. From series: Private collection. Peter Skubic
Brooch: Nothing Behind, 2015
Stainless steel
8.3 x 6.8 cm
Photo by: Petra Zimmermann
From series: Private collection
© By the author. Read Copyright.


I met Peter Skubic backstage at Handwerksmesse Munich for a quick chat, which turned out to not only evolve around his curating of Schmuck 2016, but also told a story about Skubic’s view on jewellery and life in general.

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In the statement text for the Schmuck 2016 catalogue, Peter Skubic explains a surprisingly casual approach to the honorary mission of making the selection of the 68th international show at Handwerksmesse Munich:

“I could hardly imagine the pressure on my conscience this would entail. All other things being equal, could I prefer the work of a jewellery designer I knew or was my friend to one I had never heard of? Yes, I could. Could I select approaches similar to my own for the show? Yes, I took the freedom of doing exactly this.” *

As you see in the show, my selection is diverse. According to my viewpoint, jewellery must not be worn, it must not be in metal or gold or silver. I think jewellery is part of art. Not all pieces of jewellery are art of course, but neither are all paintings. It is possible to make art by working within yourself with the information you collect from the outside. If you combine the information, then it can happen that what you make becomes art.
What’s your verdict on the current health of the contemporary jewellery art scene?
- In the last decennium I have seen a steady upward curve in the quality of jewellery, and now in the last two or three years, it has developed into an explosion. The jewellery part of art is in a revolution, in a new world, a new situation, and a new connection to society. So many people came to the opening of the Pinakothek this year and all these people are interested in jewellery. It is fantastic! So great!

For his 60th birthday, Peter Skubic donated 60 pieces of jewellery from his private collection to the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich which was then followed by jewellery donations of Austrian artist Sepp Schmölzer and by Marianne Schliwinski and Jürgen Eickhoff from Galerie Spektrum.
At this year’s opening I was thinking “Well, this is what can happen if you give some jewellery pieces to a museum…”.  You must know the right time and right situation and then you can make great things happen!
When did you start collecting jewellery?
Very early, at the same time as I started making my own work, I was able to swap pieces with other artists. Sometimes I bought it, sometimes I got it as a birthday gift. So the collection grew one piece at a time. I am always interested in the development of my own jewellery as well as what is happening in the world of jewellery. I like to know how other artists think about jewellery. Jewellery has led me to a wonderful, interesting life, being successful and knowing many people. It is a good feeling.

Peter Skubic, brooch, stainless-steel

Peter Skubic was born in 1935, in former Yugoslavia, now Serbia. His parents were chemists and ran a pharmacy in the small town of Gornji-Milanovac until the family was forced to escape during the Second World War.

How old were you when you came to Austria?

I was 6. When the Germans came, they burned our whole village down. My mother had a brother who lived in the area of Germany that is now Austria, so we went there. These were hard events with tough emotions. So, I can feel what is now happening in Syria very well. It is only normal to want to leave to go to a better place. And in the future, there will only be more and more refugees and immigrants, and the whole situation of the earth’s population will change. Anyway - it will work. Life is life. You can destroy some things but you cannot kill the essence of life. 

What was it that drew you to the field of art as a young man?
My grandmother painted, and her sister as well. I liked to create as a child, I was kind of an inventor, I loved to take a piece of wood and a knife and just make something. I was always thinking about what I could create. When I was thirteen or so, I made a skibob, from an old bicycle and a broken ski. And it worked! But people in the ski slope didn’t really like it. Maybe I was an inventor more than an artist. But an artist is an inventor.
Later on, I went to a school and learned engraving. It didn’t interest me, but it led me to make jewellery. In 1954 I started at the Akademie für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna and it was a wonderful time. I was very lazy, you see. Sure, I went to museums and galleries, but it was a great time for me.

Then I got married, and we needed an apartment and all those things, so I worked as a traditional goldsmith for some years. I wasn’t especially good or bad at it, but it was enough, and after a while, we had that apartment and a car. But I strongly felt that this was not what I wanted to do my whole life. I needed to start making my own ideas. I needed ideas. What is my greatest interest? Ohhh… erotica of course. I started creating abstract erotic forms. It was interesting. I asked a gallery for an exhibition, and it turned out to be successful, I sold 50% of the pieces - which is unusual today. TV came, newspapers reported. And so it went on from there, I became a professor in Cologne, making exhibitions, curating and organizing projects.

Peter Skubic, brooch " Comp" 2015,
Height 110 mm,  stainless steel.


Can you tell me about a project that you remember especially?
Well, in the beginning, an idea is so small. Then it grows, and you make a plan, but it is important to connect with people who have influence and contacts. I remember when I first got the idea to make a symposium in the seventies. Two years later I met the vice director of a steel factory in Austria. I told him that I had an idea, and he said “OK, come to my office tomorrow and explain your idea”. So I did, they agreed and in 1975 we launched the Symposium “Schmuck aus Stahl“ in Kapfenberg, Steiermark. After the end of the symposium, I said: “Now we need to make an exhibition with a catalogue”. They were a bit hesitant at first because of the costs, but I explained that it was important not only for the field but also for the factory to be involved with culture. They finally said ok and let me use a space.

I just sighed when I first saw the hall intended for the exhibition … every wall of this room was in a different colour and material. I decided that the only way to pull it off was to make a white cube inside of this big room. I bought many hundred square meters of textile and made a wooden construction inside the building. The exhibition had 2000 visitors in this little village in the mountains of Austria. People touched the pieces and held them in their hands. It was a fantastic experience.

I don’t like jewellery to be in vitrines, I like it to be open. Robbers can break in anyway if they want to. There is always a risk. But life is a risk. That is my philosophy of life – to be without fear. If you are afraid, you are not free in your mind!

Thank you!
* Schmuck 2016 catalogue GHM Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen, Munich.