It is the 21st Century. The Changes are Significant. Interview with Agita Putāne from Putti Gallery

Interview  /  CarolinDenter   CriticalThinking   Galleries   Market
Published: 26.03.2019
Agita Putāne, UNA magazine, February issue; Photo: Liene Pētersone; Style, MUAH: Signe Valtere Agita Putāne, UNA magazine, February issue; Photo: Liene Pētersone; Style, MUAH: Signe Valtere
Carolin Denter
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The new series by Klimt02 offers space for questions, ideas, and discussions about galleries, artists and the current jewellery market. This is the fourth interview in a series of interviews with gallerists and art dealers from around the world.

We continue with Putti Gallery, founded in 2000 by Agita Putāne. The gallery was originally founded with the aim of popularizing the performance of Latvian jewellery artists. However, by gaining local and international acclaim, it expanded its vision and added to its collection an array of outstanding jewellery pieces of foreign artists. Each year, the gallery organizes four thematic or personal exhibitions that can be viewed at the same time as the gallery's stand-alone exhibition, which mostly consists of works by Latvian jewellery and fashion designers.

Many galleries curate their artists with a specific vision in mind. Please describe Putti´s criteria.
In 2000, when I created the gallery, the main condition for selecting artists was their vocational education. In the beginning, the gallery's goal was to popularize Latvian contemporary jewellery artists, but with time, I expanded the field with the involvement of international artists. But the requirement for vocational education remains, but I really want to emphasize the meaning of intuition and good taste. One can compare it with a meal, where the general feeling and the nuances of the taste make up something I could call an embedded code. Then this developed code allows me to choose the artists for my gallery. I never rely on anyone's suggestions. I do not work with artists and do not organize exhibitions just because someone tells me that I need it. Usually, I listen, but I evaluate everything properly myself. Something that is presented to me as beautiful is something I cannot take seriously. It seems very inept that there is no criticism in the jewellery field only a cheesy admiration of everything. That is why my personal instinct is always turned on - I choose everything with heart, mind, and soul. I am very respectful that the artist has given the artwork a deep meaning, and if I cannot see it, the work is indifferent to me.

Please explain us a bit more about your profession as a gallerist, what major successes and challenges have you had this year?
My career as a gallery director started with the day I founded the gallery. I have university degrees in mathematics and international relations, however, art has always been a passion of mine with a keen interest in jewellery. As a result, I created the gallery. It was a perfect match – It was the right time, the right place and the right people to meet.
I like to talk to the world around me via jewellery. That is why I approach every exhibition with great care; I reduce it to the very essence, which is always a big challenge. I hold 4 -5 exhibitions a year. I start preparing for each exhibition for 1 year in advance. I think about the subject and then start looking for artists on the internet, in various exhibitions, publications and then invite the selected artists to participate in the project. Then I wait for them to respond while thinking about the scenography of the exhibition. Space itself, design details, jewellery, texts, everything must work in a beautiful synergy and awaken our senses. First, I get an aesthetic appeal and then the appeal travels into the intellectual dimension, which hopefully translates into a meaningful event. It is very important to me that every visitor and customer, who looks at the exhibition, gets an intimate feeling - at least one artwork speaks to you.

Contemporary Past Exhibition at Putti Gallery in 2015

How do you feel about connection and interaction with the jewellery market, or lets call it jewellery bubble, outside of your own country? Are there enough possibilities of exchange (ideas, projects, knowledge)? What efforts do you have connecting with others around the world?
I organize solo exhibitions of Latvian jewellery artists as well as international projects. Contacting artists is not difficult if everything is done on time, but I am not particularly enthusiastic about international projects. It seems that cooperation on a gallery level is impossible and each gallery wants its own piece of the pie and it is not fair to the client.   Of course, I accept the connectivity in the world but I like to do everything myself and be independent - to develop a project, invite artists, experiment, create scenography. I'm not following trends, in my gallery, I'm creating my own trends. I travel a lot, I visit jewellery exhibitions outside Latvia, read articles, interviews, but in general, I go my own, independent path.

Talking about international contacts and boundaries: A gallery typically has a monthly exhibition, that is promoted with print advertisements, direct phone calls to collectors and the press, as well as hosting the art opening. Galleries have become like a “brand” that represents a particular point of view. We would like to know more about your marketing strategies and how you are able to share your vision with others.
Each of my projects I polish like a diamond so that every facet glitters. Each such project takes time, money, energy and resources. Yes, we cooperate a lot with the press. We try to get in the magazines, give interviews, put in ads, and texts about the upcoming exhibitions. Social networks are an integral part of our work. We are writing all the texts in three languages - Latvian, Russian and English. For each exhibition we create scenography, by attracting professional scenographers, we send out invitations and organize the opening for our customers. The most important part of the business for us is the customer. Collector movement does not really exist now. There are many customers who wear jewellery daily, and my work as a gallerist on a daily basis consists to introduce PUTTI gallery to everyone in Latvia and beyond. Because there are many changes going on in the world, I am adjusting my business to this reality and working a lot on recognition of the gallery's name.  The artists, if they want their names to resonate, can work on their own recognition every day. I only deal with the popularization of the artist’s names during exhibitions. I also don't want to work with specific artists all the time, I would like to maintain dynamics. However, it is not as easy as might seem as there are not so many new artists whose works I would like to exhibit and sell in the gallery. Of course, I have my own favorites, both in Latvia and abroad.  We have developed excellent cooperation and we have become good friends. They form the center of the gallery, which I then surround up with young artists.

Amber in Contemporary Jewellery Art Exhibition at Putti Gallery in 2014

On your Website, you have an online shop for the pieces you sell in your gallery. There you openly communicate the prices of the pieces. That is, in my own experience, not common for a gallery. Please explain to us, how does this transparency pays back for you and what experiences and successes you have had through this?
We have created an online store; it works more for us as a store shelf where customers analyze what we have and then run quickly to the gallery to buy the jewellery. Currently, I have noticed that the age of clients is changing since the online store is mainly used by younger people. A while ago the customers came to buy the jewellery, we carried out the purchase by drinking wine and talking about art. It took several hours. Now, young customers have already explored everything on the internet, they run into the gallery, pick out jewellery quickly and leave. It also happens to customers from abroad (especially from Russia). They have studied everything, come and buy the five previously studied jewellery pieces. A client from Switzerland recently came in and bought seven pieces. Frankly, many are not even interested in the artist's name. It is more important for them to buy a beautiful art piece and wear it. We don't hide prices. Personally, I always like clarity and directness. I want to find out right away if I can afford it or not.

Besides selling pieces, how do you see the role of the gallerist in the artist-gallery relationship? What do you think is missing at the moment and what do you think should cease to exist if any?
For me, contemporary and conceptual jewellery is not just a consumer product or a source of profit. It is a process - a real relationship and lively participation. I think that the paths of the gallerist and the artist go in parallel. Intersections are joint exhibitions (excluding sales). Art is about life and the art world is about money. I work in the art world and of course, I want to earn money for myself and the artist. Money is not needed for generating ideas, but for realizing them it is. The era of the internet has begun. I think the gallery's original concept has lost its meaning and become obsolete. We can no longer emphasize that the gallery is the main place where the customer, the gallerist, the artist, the collector meet. Now everything can be found on the internet and the contacts are established directly. It is neither good nor bad. It is just the way it is now. Comfortable and memorable paths no longer exist, because every day we learn something new, and we need to change in line with the world’s economic situation. Everything is continuously changing and the perfect model is just theoretical. Galleries need to look for other ways to survive. It is a pleasure that the artist always has to revive his performance on his own to show that he is not dead, and in these situations, galleries are a great medium to do that.

The Metarmorphosis of Pearls in Contemporary and Conceptual Jewellery 2018

Thinking about contemporary jewellery especially, how do you think it is necessary to “educate” the audience, customers, collectors (...) and so on?
I am really for educating the audience. I like to learn something new all the time myself. In general, the function of art is to develop people. Art makes people think, read, acquire an interest, develop. I don't believe art can change the world. But art can change the way you think about it, how to look at it. And that way, the world is also changing. Works of art are the ones that prove that the world is much deeper than we think. It is art that tells us the purpose of all existence, reveals the meaning of existence. I carry out exhibitions and hope that these exhibitions create an explosion in people's minds and remain deep in memory. With exhibitions, I want to create an interest in the jewellery world and inspire people to discover the depth of this world. But at times the obstacle lies elsewhere – there are not that many things to exhibit. In my opinion, no one would buy the pieces that I saw at this year’s MJW. On the contrary, they would scare away customers. I do not like situations when looking at an artwork my mood transforms negatively.

Contemporary jewellery, except for a few auctions held worldwide, very little to no resale or secondhand market. Why do you think this is the case, and how would you imagining a “resales” of contemporary jewellery could be possible?
From what I have read and seen, I have the feeling that jewellery art is often very much compared to visual art. But visual art does not allow the wear-ability aspect. Jewellery remains as a decorative art form. Artist Emmanuel Lacoste said: There is a very important thing that distinguishes jewellery  from all other forms of art - it is direct, physical contact with the body. This proximity creates a very intimate and personal relationship between the wearer of the jewellery and the piece itself.” These relationships are the determining factor in “resale”. Contemporary jewellery is made according to time and social context. Many of the jewellery pieces we try to appreciate today based on the background of the past is no longer interesting and applicable in today's environment. In the 1970s, the ascend of the avant-garde jewellery began. During that time, jewellery began to be perceived not as a jewellery, but rather as an open opportunity, free and different way of thinking. Wearing this type of jewellery required a great deal of self-confidence. At that time, good quality, but less beautiful and decorative pieces of jewellery in its traditional sense were created using different and various materials and expressions. Now it is the 21st century. The changes are significant. I am convinced that the jewellery that has been made to decorate the body will continue to stand as an art form that is decorative and non-binding. I myself have acquired a fairly large collection of jewellery that I have purchased from various exhibitions, galleries, artists. Three years ago, I made my collection available for the public eye in the gallery; it could be viewed, touched, and applied and bought. When someone bought the first piece from my collection, I realized that it was great that the collection was on the move. It's so wonderful that the jewellery piece does not disappear in the box, but it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Zoo is Life Exhibition at Putti Gallery in 2014

Talking about values and stability: Leaving the aspect of “passion” or “beauty” aside, how do you see the stability of the value of contemporary jewellery pieces, especially from non-precious metals?
For everyone, the value of art depends on one’s own value system. But I would like to repeat, that the most important thing in contemporary jewellery life is the fact that they are worn and their existence goes beyond the artist's workshop does not end in a museum, gallery, or collector's showcase. It really flourishes and self-realizes only when dealing with real human and real-life situations. So the main condition is sustainable wearability.

This is a bit difficult question to ask, but it is as well important to discuss: Artists typically receive payment for their work when it is purchased, with a percentage taken out by the gallery. What do you think about this model and its future? If as a gallerist you think there should be changes what are they?
In my gallery, every artist determines the price of the jewellery piece, then the gallery adds the margin and then the VAT is added. There are no certain percentages and there are no specific formulas how it is done. We look at each artwork separately. But I would like to note that the artist should think very carefully about the price of their artwork. I think that often the price and the jewellery do not go together. My belief is that money is worth spending on a carefully crafted artwork - the form, carefully designed composition, great story, sophisticated style, quality, and creative solution. Then the price can be forgotten, and the emotions remain. Customers are very aware of what they want to buy and how much they want to spend. Since there is a change of generations among our customers, I can tell you that the young are not ready to spend a lot of money on jewellery pieces, they look more at the beauty, which is clean and clear, without unnecessary definitions, and which simply speak for themselves.

Is a professional sales platform that develops and shares your work to increase sales something that interests you? What would be useful, what could improve the market, or do you have already experiences with it? Please share your thoughts with us.
Of course, it is always important for me to sell pieces on a daily basis. The experience of using different sales platforms is very negative for me. Definitely not to others. I can only share my negative experience. I paid a certain sales platform a very large sum for the opportunity to be on there. Then I had to hire an employee in the gallery who continually was preparing the material for this platform. I had no chance to understand how serious work and money the platform puts in itself to advertise its existence to people who are not related to art. There was no result for the gallery at all. I prefer control everything myself.

FANTASTIC! exhibition at Putti Gallery in 2013

What are your thoughts on improving, strengthen and expand the contemporary jewellery market, based on your professional experience?
Nothing should be improved, changed or strengthened artificially. Everything must happen naturally. My observation is that in the field of jewellery, art only lives for art. It is great that the artist tells other artists something smart, but it is very important that the viewer, the buyer gets something positive from this communication among the artists. It would be great if there were an openness to admit to the viewer, the artist, the curator, the organizer of the exhibition that these works are shit.
I believe that the basic feature of the jewellery piece is to be functional. But if it is not functional, it must be on purpose. For me, contemporary jewellery is associated with visual scream, mysterious whisper, gentle touch, joy, splash, multiple meanings, or minimalist feelings.
Jewellery and its field serve me for a certain purpose - I enjoy it and it has helped me to meet many interesting people. It is not a simple content, it is an essential content.

About the Interviewee

Agita Putāne opened Putti Gallery in 2000. Her career as a gallery director started with the day she founded the gallery. she holds a university degree in mathematics and international relations. Art has always been a passion of her, with a keen interest in jewellery. As a result, she created Putti Gallery.
She is holding 4 to 5 exhibitions per year, from which are many o Latvian artists, but as well as international projects. For her, contemporary and conceptual jewellery is not just a consumer product or a source of profit. It is a process - a real relationship and lively participation. Following trends and traveling a lot, her aim is to promote Putti Gallery on an international level. 

About the author

Denter completed her vocational training as Goldsmith at Master School for Craftsmen in Kaiserslautern in 2013. 
In 2017 she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein. After her graduation, she started working as Marketing- and Designmanagement Assistance at Campus Idar-Oberstein at the Gemstone and Jewellery Departement. Since 2015 she is working at, an online platform for the communication of contemporary jewelery. Trough articles and interviews she is developing critical subjects on the field of contemporary jewellery. Carolin is constantly working on her own jewellery, which has been exhibited among Europe.