Nichka Marobin, art historian and blogger, interviewed by Klimt02

Published: 19.09.2016
Nichka Marobin Nichka Marobin
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Nichka Marobin this year is presenting an exhibition at the Museu del Modernisme de Barcelona entitled “Les Confluences | Las Confluencias - Ramon Casas and Contemporary jewellery”, as part of the JOYA 2016 Fair.

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Nichka Marobin is a Dutch and Flemish art historian: she graduated at the faculty of letters of Padova (Italy) with a dissertation on Renaissance ornament prints from 1500 to 1550 in Germany and the Low Lands, focusing on the migration of forms, themes and styles on the engravings of Cornelis Bos, Cornelis Floris II, Lucas van Leyden and the German Little Masters.

In 2011 she founded The Morning Bark, a blogazette on arts and humanities, where she posts about arts with a multidisciplinary path, including fine arts, books, fashion and contemporary jewellery.

In 2014 she started her project called Les Métissages developing the concept of migration of forms and ideas by juxtaposing contemporary jewellery and fashion creations: by matching old and new fashion creations with contemporary jewellery, the life of forms surfaces, testifying its restless existence and enhancing both these forms of Art.

In 2015 she curated the exhibition Les Métissages: a new grammar of beauty at JOYA BARCELONA, exposing at Arts Santa Mónica, Barcelona.

She is a contributor of Art Jewellery Forum, a worldwide platform for contemporary jewellery and AJF Ambassador for contemporary jewellery in Italy; from 2009 she is active member of AGC the Italian association for contemporary jewellery…and a passionate collector of contemporary jewellery.
This year you’re presenting a new piece work as part of the JOYA event, an exhibition at the Museu del Modernisme de Barcelona entitled Les Confluences | Las Confluencias – Ramon Casas and Contemporary jewellery.

Last year you participated with your work Les Méstissages, presented at the Ars Santa Mònica Ars. Discussing Les Métissages, you’ve explained that ‘the project explores the connection between fashion and contemporary jewellery providing a new grammar of beauty’. At Klimt02 we think you’ve hit on a great work method. New techniques (technology) facilitate access to new content and give rise to new languages, opening up new options for the creation of knowledge, new possibilities of observation that lead to new possibilities of understanding.

First of all , let me thank you for this opportunity.

Making an abstraction of a possible work method of yours, would it be fair to say that there’s a characteristic formal element that we could define as stating of the comparison, or evidence of the analogy, or revelatory maieutics? How would you define it?
It is very difficult to give a definition of a "possible" method of work talking about the Métissages: primarily, they’re nothing but a result of my own memory’s archives. Assisted by  a constant online researches on web platforms and stored in files and files clearly organized in my memory and in my personal computer.  How a Métissage comes to the world? There’s no rule about that: sometimes is looking to a precise piece of jewellery, sometimes is looking to a fashion creation: my memory starts working and searching and they just bloom in front my eyes.
But I haven’t invented anything new: the study of the migration of ornamental motifs, patterns and ideas started a long time ago and had their maximum specialists both in Henri Focillon and Jurgis Baltrušaitis (the latter was his pupil): they both focused their research on Romanesque and Gothic art, looking and studying carefully from where some ornamental elements came and how they proliferate and reproduced themselves during centuries [1]. But if for the life of forms studied by Focillon and Baltrušaitis was a process of “continuity”, Les Métissages are a study process for “contiguity”, and this concept is fascinating and tricky: I’m concentrated in this now.

Moreover this projects has much to do with another key-concept: the one of “sister arts" [2] : these combinations provide a range of dialogue au pair between two forms of art, banning all the hierarchies that Western history of Art taught us about Fine Arts and Applied Art, for instance. Fashion and contemporary jewellery, both considered “subcategories”, are expressing themselves as two distinctive forms of art. Lastly, the most intriguing aspect of this project is that none of the artist jewellers and fashion creators knows each other: this is really surprising.

Are there any changes in this new exhibition in respect of the previous one in terms of structure, method or form? Tell us about your new project.

This new project, Les Confluences, started this year in May, when Paulo Ribeiro, Director of Joya, communicated me the  main theme of the jewellery fair for this year 2016: ART.

At the very beginning there was the idea to create some connections between arts (intended as paintings, sculptures etc.) and contemporary jewellery but I was doubtful: I didn’t think that the concept of mere literal association could still work: it’s something that, in a way, we have always under our eyes, passing rapidly via the social networks as well platforms and websites: we are used to this kind of re-interpretations and “declentions”. Besides, I thought that this mental/figurative association always marks the hierarchy between jewellery and fine arts, reinforcing that usual concept the “applied arts” are a sort of younger daughters and, in this sense, smaller voices, always ready for a search of attention.
Things changed when Paulo Ribeiro proposed me a collaboration with the Museo del Modernisme de Barcelona and focusing my project on a single author, in this case Ramon Casas: things started. I came to Barcelona, had a long visit to the Museum, I studied the catalogue, I looked carefully at the works displayed during the exhibition Ramon Casas. La vida moderna [3]  and I selected ten works which impressed my eyes.
For the presentation of Les Confluences I adopted the same method of Les Métissages: I looked in my memory’s archives and find the right matchings: the forms bloomed. I started firstly to combine Ramon Casas with different jeweller artists checking the forms, the patterns and, once the project was approved, Mrs Gema Losa, Director of the Museum, Paulo Ribeiro and I decided to ask the makers for a new piece, directly inspired to the work of Ramon Casas which was, at the very beginning, carefully chosen for a distinctive creative echo between the painter and the jeweller.
The Artists’ answer was really positive: each maker found something of his/her own in Ramon Casas…and the Confluencias were done. And what started primarily as a connection on forms and ideas changed becoming a connection focused on textures, colours, surfaces and materials.

As a curator, what facet of this work interests you the most? To put it another way, what do you think the main task of a curator is?
First of all I have to say that I’m still moving my very first steps in curatorial field and I can hardly define myself as a proper curator: I still have a long journey to do.

In my few experiences as a curator, I can say that I what like the most is the whole process of realization of a project: from the idea, to the different and several aspects you have to face each time you are involved in a  curatorial experience: the constant contact with artist, the catalogue, the display. And the opening, of course.

On the other hand, I think that the main task of a Curator is creating paths where the eyes and mind can travel, always with high standard quality. For this reason, in my opinion, an inter-disciplinary project could help curators: if you think at the history of the arts, you can easily detects that it’s full of coexistences, delays, anticipations…and a myriad of languages wait to be enlighted by different sides.

I mentioned quality up above and I know I’m opening a Pandora’s box touching this delicate aspect, but I think that good criteria of selection provide good works and good projects. No matter if a project will take place in a Gallery or in a Museum or in an Artist’s studio, no matter if, as a curator, you deal with ten or one-hundred pieces, but  in my opinion, if you consider quality as well as the angle’ exhibition the main aspect of a project, your job is accomplished.

As a user of art fairs, can you name an exhibition, event or meeting that has impressed you (recently)?

Of course, as a collector of contemporary jewellery I can name Schmuck, for the quantity of meetings and exhibitions (sometimes even too much) disseminated in the city and the past Art Biennale in Venice: I know that these two events are really huge in terms of dimensions, offers and visibility, but I still consider them impressive documenting journeys one has to experience once in a lifetime.

In particular I can say that some of the most impressive and touching pavilions were the Japanese and  the Australian ones, then those of Uruguay and Norway: overwhelming.
On the other hand, I really appreciate small exhibitions, often without high-sounding names, where the curatorial path is clear but, at the same time, so well hidden that you can perceive the existence of it.

As a visitor, what would you demand from events of this kind?

Talking about fairs and exhibition the only thing I could demand is quality, quality and more quality. During Schmuck, for instance, I saw really beautiful exhibitions, gathering two or three artists and showing pieces of extremely high quality and technique. It doesn’t matter if you use plastic instead of gold, but you cannot consider yourself as jeweller artist just because you glue some different elements and because “this is contemporary”. One does have a good technique for doing this (both using glue or goldsmithing) in order to have a  really impressive work which can face what I call “the time test”.

Of course quality implies selection, accuracy, study, research, humility…and, above all, time.

As a participant in JOYA, what do you think makes your participation in this event interesting?
I followed JOYA’s growth from its very beginning and I can see a constant development in terms of selection and quality: from year to year this huge work gathers new voices and spread the culture of contemporary jewellery all over the world: connecting quality is a great aim.

As a member of Agc, the first Italian Association for contemporary jewellery, I can say that Joya was the first international fair which opened its doors to collectives as associations as ours, promoting  groups and not only single artists. And now JOYA has truly become that rendez-vous that the jewellery community wait after Schmuck in autumn.

Besides JOYA was the first fair institution who strongly believed in the project of Les Métissages: to me this has been one of the most important aknowledgement in my “career” and it helped me and my project to go out from the virtual world. You can easily imagine how grateful I am.
As a traveller, how do you see cultural Barcelona?

In my opinion Cultural Barcelona has a lot to offer always: each one can choose a personal artistic path to follow and the city is very rich in this sense. And during the contemporary jewellery Fair the offer is much more captivating, opening the door to the field of contemporary jewellery not only to the “usual” community, but to everybody.


[1] For the life of forms see: Henri Focillon, Vie de Formes suivi  de Éloge de la main, Paris, PUF, 1943 (tr. It. Vita delle Forme seguito da elogio della mano, Torino Einaudi, 1972).
For the life and migrations of forms see also: Jurgis Baltrušaitis, Le Moyen Âge fantastique. Antiquités et exotismes dans l’art gothique, Paris, 1972 (tr. It. Il Medioevo Fantastico. Antichità ed esotismi dell’arte gotica, Milano, Adelphi, 1973);
Jurgis Baltrušaitis, Formations, deformations, Paris, Flammarion, 1986 (tr. It. Formazioni, deformazioni. La stilistica ornamentale nella scultura romanica, Milano, Adelphi, 2005);
Jurgis Baltrušaitis, Réveils et prodiges, Paris, Flammarion, 1988 (tr, it. Risvegli e prodigi. La metamorfosi del gotico, Milano, Adelphi, 1999).

[2] For the concept of “sister arts” see Mario Praz, Mnemosine. Parallelo tra letteratura e le arti visive, Milano, SE, 2008¸; see also Aby Warburg, Mnemosyne Atlas  via

[3] For the life and works of Ramon Casas see: Ramon Casas, La Vida Moderna, exhibition catalogue, curated by Gabriel Pinós Guirao, Museo del Modernismo de Barcelona, Barcelona, 2016.
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