- Carolin Denter
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Klimt02 is in conversation with gallerists and experts in the field of contemporary jewellery. This series of interviews is an attempt to make the enigmatic art market in our field more understandable and to underline once again the importance of transparent communication. The series started with the article Between Commerce and Art.
Dirk Allgaier has headed Arnoldsche Art Publishers since 2015 collaborating with numerous important museums, collections and galleries throughout Europe, North America and Asia, he is also a collector of contemporary art jewellery.
Dirk, Arnoldsche Art Publishers offers a unique list of titles in the fields of fine art, applied art and design and, as an internationally active publisher of art books, arnoldsche collaborates with numerous important museums, collections and galleries throughout Europe, North America and Asia. You have been head of the publishing house since 2015. Can you explain to us a bit more about your work and tell us whether you have a specific vision in mind while planning what titles to publish?
Working out a distinctive and interesting programme represents a fresh challenge every year. When choosing titles, I have to take several points into consideration: the appeal factor of new titles – they shouldn’t be too specialised, but at the same time, not too generalist; they have to represent a good blend of the various subject areas in our programme: ‘Crafts & Design’, ‘Jewellery’, ‘Ceramics & Porcelain’,‘Metal’, ‘Glass, ‘Collectibles’, ‘Fashion & Textile Art’, ‘Fine Arts’ and ‘African and Asian Art’; the general saleability of a topic at booksellers as well as its financial feasibility for the publisher and potential success on the market. My aim is to publish books with exciting texts and illustrations designed to be eye-catching, with our contributions to promote research in each field we cover while at the same time meeting with a positive and successful response on the market.
- My aim is to publish books with exciting texts and illustrations designed to be eye-catching, with our contributions to promote research in each field we cover while at the same time meeting with a positive and successful response on the market.
Arnoldsche has usually published between fifteen and twenty titles a year, but in a previous interview you said 2019 would be the most ambitious year so far with about forty publications. What led to this outcome?
Last year was certainly a really exceptional year with a wide variety of publications that sold well. Our success with them was due above all to broad market saturation of the international art-book trade. Each well-placed book of ours draws more attention to what we are doing, and in turn attracts new projects. Last year we collaborated with an international array of museums, for instance, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zurich, the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Vienna, the Neue Sammlung in Munich and the Bröhan Museum in Berlin. Now, in the difficult Corona year 2020, we do, of course, notice that museums are operating more cautiously so we will not attain the same range of new titles in 2020.
To read that you were able to double the number of planned publications in 2019 is encouraging, considering that the market is very tight and hard to break into. Who, would you say, do you mainly target with your books?
Since our programme is so wide-ranging, it’s difficult to define our targent market with any precision. Our books are chiefly bought by collectors, artists, curators, writers and, of course, art enthusiasts, but also by institutions such as museums, cultural foundations and libraries. Of the books we sell, about a third go to the German-speaking regions, another third to the US and Canada and the remaining third to Europe at large as well as China and Australia.
Despite the beauty and high quality of your books, you are very much a niche publisher. Have you noticed a change in demand for those special books of yours in recent years?
Ensuring we are well-placed as niche publishers has always been our business policy. And this is what has sustained interest in our books for so many years. One challenge has been restructuring the channels by which our books reach our clientele. Most books used to be sold by retail booksellers; that was the traditional distribution channel. In recent years, however, it has dwindled to such an extent that the ‘link’ in the chain between publisher and reader has sometimes been broken. After relaunching our online presence (homepage, facebook, instagram, newsletter), we now reach potential readers more directly because they buy our books not only from booksellers but also from us through our webshop. Since last year our webshop in particular has been a very successful operation through which we reach out to our clientele worldwide.
How did you become aware of the field of contemporary jewellery?
Through my publishing work I have forged close ties to contemporary art jewellery. That was already the case by the late 1990s, when I was charged with editing my first monographs on contemporary art jewellery-makers and had the privilege of working with such greats as Friedrich Becker, Peter Chang, Wendy Ramshaw, Peter Skubic and Gijs Bakker. It wasn’t long before I made the acquaintance of Helen Drutt, who with the passing of years has become a close friend. She has taught me a great deal about how to recognise quality and she has opened my eyes as well as the doors to the American market for me. Collaboration with the late, much lamented, ‘legendary luminaries’ Florian Hufnagl in Munich and Fritz Falk in Pforzheim also had a very strong formative influence on me.
- Through my publishing work I have forged close ties to contemporary art jewellery. That was already the case by the late 1990s, when I was charged with editing my first monographs on contemporary art jewellery-makers.
You are highly respected in the jewellery scene because you offer a forum for contemporary jewellery. What do you think about the current economic situation and its potential effect on the market for contemporary jewellery?
In our Stuttgart publishing headquarters we organize the ‘arnoldsche weekend art gallery’, twice a year, where we jointly show a ceramicist and an art jewellery-maker. Here I have come to realise just how challenging it is to ‘sell’ contemporary jewellery to the public. It takes a lot of convincing, especially when it isn’t made of precious materials such as gold, silver and precious stones but instead the Conceptual aspect is focused on, and the designer works are made of plastic, organic materials or throwaway articles. You sometimes feel like a missionary on a mission impossible. However, the ‘arnoldsche weekend art gallery’ we host annually has also resulted in gratifying outcomes: we also sell to people who are in the process of discovering our field and developing a fantastic enthusiasm for, and delight in, these beautiful works.
Do you think that art lovers are more open to the concept of contemporary jewellery? Where are the difficulties for this art form?
Therein lies the challenge: convincing people who collect fine art, and have previously had no contact with art jewellery that what we are dealing with here is a field of art. But it’s difficult because the mediation that would convey awareness of value and knowledge of the theoretical substructure of jewellery as art is often lacking. Wearing jewellery, discussing it, devoting exhibitions and publications to it help to hone the eye of a broader public for art jewellery. Members of the public who are interested in art should be guided gently away from the prevailing emphasis on material value to the statement an artwork or art form makes, and, what is more, rejoice in realising that artworks are not only to be hung on walls but can also be worn on the body.
We are conducting an interview about the ‘market’ for contemporary jewellery. Perhaps this term is not appropriate at all, as the market is either highly problematic or does not really exist. Could you evaluate for us the jewellery market as you have experienced it over the past decade, and describe your experience?
The IHM (Schmuck München), special jewellery trade show in Munich demonstrates that there is a market, even though the scene is small. Wearing jewellery is a wonderfully participatory act: give it a try and go to a concert or the opera wearing an absolutely spectacular brooch – for instance, one by Gisbert Stach, Mirjam Hiller, Jiro Kamata or David Bielander. This can lead to great conversations and you can thus personally enlist new admirers to the ranks of art jewellery lovers. And these are works that are more or less affordable. Go to a Cartier or Bulgari outlet and inquire about a bracelet or a brooch. What you get there won’t be one-offs, or art or individuality, but you’ll have to dig far deeper into your pockets for it.
Let’s turn to the details of how the contemporary jewellery market is structured. What, in your own experience, distinguishes it from other, more conventional, markets – especially where valuation is concerned?
Unfortunately, there are not as many galleries dealing in contemporary jewellery as there used to be. That is due in part at least to the artists themselves, who bypass galleries in selling their works, which is, of course, in many cases understandable because artists cannot live on what they sell through galleries alone. There is still a much wider-flung network of galleries in fine art.
Still: art jewellery is magnificent, diverse, exciting, fascinating, communicative, sophisticated and sexy. It has a future, we’re all in it together shaping it: artists, gallerists, curators, writers, professors and we at Arnoldsche Art Publishers. Go to our website and take a look around. There’s a lot to discover there!
- Unfortunately, there are not as many galleries dealing in contemporary jewellery as there used to be. There is still a much wider-flung network of galleries in fine art.
Yes, of course, it is important to guide the public towards things that are especially good. Galleries, museum curators, universities, magazine editors and publishers like us are absolutely necessary for this. And we hope to be able to continue working on it successfully for a long time to come.
About the IntervieweeDirk Allgaier is Publisher at Arnoldsche Art Publishers and collector of contemporary art jewellery.
About the author
Carolin Denter completed her training as Goldsmith at Master School for Craftsmen in Kaiserslautern in 2013. 2015 she made an Internship at Klimt02 in Barcelona. In 2017 she graduated as Bachelor of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at the University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein. After her graduation, she worked as Assistance at Campus Idar-Oberstein in the Gemstone and Jewellery Departement till the end of 2019.
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