I make art pieces that you can challenge yourself to wear. An Interview with Sigurd Bronger

Published: 17.01.2024
I make art pieces that you can challenge yourself to wear. An Interview with Sigurd Bronger.
Klimt02, Cécile Maes
Edited by:
Edited at:
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Sigurd Bronger. Brooch: Carrying device for a Nautilus shell, 2015. Nautilus shell, steel, gold-plated brass. 10.5 x 14 x 9.8 cm. Awarded at: Bavarian State Award for outstanding ideas and technical achievements in the craft sector. Part of: Nationalmuseum Oslo. Sigurd Bronger
Brooch: Carrying device for a Nautilus shell, 2015
Nautilus shell, steel, gold-plated brass
10.5 x 14 x 9.8 cm
Awarded at: Bavarian State Award for outstanding ideas and technical achievements in the craft sector
Part of: Nationalmuseum Oslo
© By the author. Read Copyright.


Approaching the vibrant Munich Jewellery Week 2024, as the final details rush to be settled, we had the privilege of interviewing Sigurd Bronger, the featured artist at his upcoming first overview exhibition outside his home country: WEARABLES at Die Neue Sammlung in Munich, from March 1st to June 3rd, 2024.

Reflecting on this exchange, we had the opportunity to delve into his artistic journey, hear his perspective on contemporary jewellery education, explore his creative process, and understand the conception of this significant project.
While exploring the key dates in your artistic journey, you initially trained in traditional jewellery making in Norway, followed by further studies in Amsterdam. During this period, you became immersed in a significant shift among many Jewellery artists known as ‘The New Jewelry'.

Looking at things today and considering modern educational programs, would you have considered pursuing different training?

No, I think that the traditional training I had was a good start for me. Especially the way I got the technical teaching. It was essential for my artistic career. Practising the technical experience of making has given me the freedom to create whatever comes into my mind in a creative process.

As someone who previously taught at the Arts and Crafts Department at KHiO Oslo, could you share your insights into contemporary jewellery education today and the new wave of emerging artists from these schools?
The way the academy is organised today has developed into a sort of quasi-academic atmosphere, where the need to produce a thesis about so-called artistic research has taken over from the work of discussing and making good art. They are too focused on having an academic education than, in the end, working as an artist.
The students are poorly prepared to deal with the world outside the academy.
Also, the lack of technical and artistic education has made the situation even more complicated. A few newcomers are in the field, but there could have been many more.

In a previous interview, you mentioned your return to Norway in 1983, which was quite a shock. The new conception of jewellery from the 1970s still needed to be fully represented. However, today, Norway is one of the countries with artists considered to be pioneers of contemporary jewellery, such as Liv Blåvarp and Tone Vigeland (who also had a retrospective in 2017).
Have you witnessed how art jewellery has integrated into Norwegian artistic culture?

Norwegian artistic culture is not so very interested in the field of contemporary
jewellery art. It is a very small discipline in our art culture. We have no galleries which are specialised in showing and promoting contemporary jewellery art in Norway.
Because of the lack of interest among the audience and cultural institutions, I saw the need to find other places to show my work that took my work seriously in order to promote me as an artist. This is also why some of my colleagues, like Tone and Liv, went abroad.

Your work displays a flawlessly executed mechanism that invites manipulation without anyone really daring to do it. It's as if the term 'Wearable devices' implies that the object is likely to explode in our hands, prompting us to cautiously hold a bomb in its case, fearing that the tiniest shake might set it off. It’s like preciousness is omnipresent in your work.

How does it manifest itself in your work?

For a long time now, I have been working with the term so-called 'Carrying Devices’.
It means that the construction of the piece and all its elements take part in an internal dialogue with the material it is carrying. Each part plays a crucial role in carrying a certain kind of material, like an egg, shoe sole, or cardboard box….

What does jewellery mean to you?
I dislike the word Jewellery because it reminds me of some elements of wealth and commercial industry. I try to make art pieces that you sometimes can challenge yourself to wear. The main thing in my work is to create an interesting piece with sometimes a surprising element of the material in combination with the construction of the object.

Do you create jewellery?
No! I don’t create jewellery, I create Carrying devices.

Some of your pieces are activated or trigger activation by others. Do your pieces require the body to be fully functional?
For me, it is important to look at the piece as an independent object, not always necessary to wear. I am not so concerned if the piece can be worn on the body, though it always has a mechanism that imposes the piece to be worn on the body. It is not always functional in the way you can expect, but this is exactly what triggers me in my creative process.

Could you talk about the conception of this next exhibition at Die Neue Sammlung during Schmuck 2024?
Your meticulous attention to detail in each piece, their cases, and their arrangement in space leads me to inquire about the exhibition curation. Were you involved in the scenography?
Making such a big exhibition, especially abroad, is always a challenge. It requires a lot of planning and preparation.
I am very lucky to have a professional curator Dr. Petra Hölscher from Die Neue Sammlung to help me. Together we make a very good team. She understands my artistic approach to this exhibition and what is important for me and the Museum to show.
The scenography will not be revolutionary, but my pieces will be displayed satisfyingly for me and the public to see. I think all the pieces will appear in a way where each unique piece will tell its own story.

To conclude, many of your pieces have been acquired by cultural institutions. Could you share your perspective on the contemporary jewellery market? Is there one? Do collectors acquire your works? Are you financially independent through your artistic practice?
I have been lucky. Thanks to grants from the Norwegian government and a part-time job at the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, I don’t need to depend on income from my artistic practice.
This gives me the freedom in time to concentrate on making and creating new work.
Through this, I can create whatever comes into my mind of creativity. I don’t need to think about selling and producing a lot of work.

The contemporary Jewellery art market is very small. There is a big gap of collectors; many of the serious collectors are getting old, and sadly, some of them have passed away in time.
I think we have to take much more distance from the commercial / production jewellery. The uniqueness of contemporary jewellery art is the essence of survival in the field. Many artists are producing multiple of the same art piece. They are more occupied with producing and selling their pieces than concentrating on developing new ideas.
I have a few serious collectors who really appreciate the uniqueness of my pieces.
Some of my collectors are also collecting fine art, and discussing the difference between the two disciplines is always interesting. One of the topics we discuss is the economics of the creative process. We can agree on this:’If the field should be taken seriously as an art form, it should also increase the price of the unique piece’.

>> More info about the exhibition HERE

About the Interviewee

Born in 1957 in Norway’s capital, Oslo, Sigurd Bronger attended the Oslo Vocational College, specialising in Jewellery before choosing to pursue further studies in watchmaking and goldsmithing at the Vocational School in Schoonhoven, Netherlands, graduating in 1979. Following his studies he worked as an engraver in the Koninklijke Fabrieken Posthumus in Amsterdam, founded in 1920. In 1983, he returned to Oslo, where he has since lived and worked.