Interview to Marie-José van den Hout, curator of the travelling exhibition Swedish Jewellery

Interview  /  BehindTheScenes   Curating
Published: 03.01.2007
Interview to Marie-José van den Hout, curator of the travelling exhibition Swedish Jewellery.
Edited at:

(...) I like work that reflects the country's culture, its nature, its climate and whatever characteristics a country has. (...)
Artists whose work is most interesting to fellow-artists is not necessarily the same as those who are most interesting for the curator. The choice of artists is also dependant on whether the view is national or international. The different associations and experiences are, of course, the primary issue. A national selection is based on tradition, trends and local comparison.

The invitation to Marie-Josè van den Hout to make a selection of Swedish Jewellery was a way of changing the perspective.
Marie-Josè van den Hout is the director of Galerie Marzee in Nijmegen Netherlands, but also curator of many international jewellery exhibitions. Galerie Marzee opened in 1978 and is now the largest gallery for contemporary jewellery in the Western world.

Marie-Josè van den Hout`s artistic background started early as she grew up in a home where drawing and making of objects were daily activities. She was later to carry out her formal art studies at the academy.

Her interest is more within the realms of fine art and this, of course, influences her view on jewellery. In her private collection (open to public in Galerie Marzee from June 2004), rings are considered small sculptures and necklaces are more like drawings and paintings.

Marie-Josè, in January 2003 you came to Sweden to look at Swedish jewellery.
What was your impression?

Apart from a short visit to Gothenburg for a talk in the Röhss Museum a few years ago, this was my first real visit to Sweden. Distance and silence is what struck me.

Some of the artists you knew already - how did you find them?
Yes, I already knew some of the artists and I value them because of the quietness of their work, which I think is one of the differences with Dutch work. Things unsaid instead of too many things spoken out loudly.

Do you have a comment about national and international perspectives and the way in which you have made your selection?
I like work that reflects the country's culture, its nature, its climate and whatever characteristics a country has. I don't like copies of Dutch jewellery in other countries. But schools tend to copy the Dutch way of working because of its fame.

Opportunities to exhibit jewellery in Sweden are few. There is only one jewellery gallery, Hnoss, it has an international focus. There are showrooms connected to jewellery boutiques with a more design approach and co-operative galleries run by artists from one several craft disciplines. There are two leading museums: National Museum in Stockholm and Röhss Museum in Gothenburg.

During your stay, looking at those places and meeting artists, you saw work from over a hundred artists and 15 were selected. Appart from quality what are you looking for when you invite artists for your gallery and other exhibitions?
Well, in a country far less populated than ours, I think this is not a bad harvest.
I like to see ideas expressed. And if you are master of the techniques belonging to your medium, jewellery in this case, you have more possibilities to express yourself in that medium.

Jewellery today can be any material and Marie-José van den Hout thinks it is a pity that students don´t make more effort to learn the different techniques. She prefers hard materials in jewellery like metal and wood and skilled use of them. 

Could you make a comment on the 15 Swedish jewellers that were invited? Most of them are quite young, do young jewellers have a more international language?
The ideas in the jewellery I chose I found far more outspoken, more conceptual, less design. Of course this was a personal choice. Someone with a more design-orientated way of looking would certainly make a different choice. But it had to be my choice, the gallery's choice.

The Scandinavian countries have been known for simplicity and finding inspiration in nature, can you see any national stamps?
No, I did not recognize any of this, at least not more than in other countries. 

There is a big interest from Swedish jewellers to show work abroad, to meet colleagues from other countries and find new network. Of course this gives other references than you would have staying in your own environment. It can be vitalizing, but can it be a danger concerning cultural identity? (You mentioned copying Dutch way of working in schools.)
I think if an artist's work is honest there won't be a problem.


Exhibition itinerary:
Galerie Marzee, Nijmegen, Netherland 12/10 – 26/11/2003
Galeria Bielak, Krakow, Poland 26/07 – 31/08/2004
Orfebres FAD, Barcelona, Spain 27/10 – 08/11/2004
Flow Gallery, London, England 18/11/04 – 10/01/20005
Alternatives Gallery, Rome, Italy 19/03 – 16/04/2005
Galeria Reverso, Lisboa, Portugal 4/06 – 08/07/2005
Velvet da Vinci Gallery, San Francisco, USA 01/09 – 30/09/2005
Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge MA, USA 01/12/05 – 15/01/2006