The contemporary jewelry display at the Scmuckmuseum was the smallest of the exhibits. Despite the small number of pieces in the collection, it was my favorite. Among the modern works on display were some very experimental pieces and a wide range of materials and techniques. I found the work inspiring and creative.
The work spanned the 20th century to the present day, and while the majority of the artists were German (with most of those from Pforzheim), there were many impressive works by artists from other countries.
While the historical displays featured work that was primarily gold cast pieces, the work in the contemporary exhibit was largely fabricated pieces and incorporated materials such as steel, plastic, paper, and glass.
It is almost as if the museum is making a statement about how modern work is more inventive and experimental when juxtaposed on work from the previous millennia.
But this statement I would disagree with, if that is the intended message, since the scope of what I saw in the historical exhibits was rather narrow when all cultures are considered.
A small exhibit of African and southeast Asian body ornament, labeled, “primitive works”, contradicts this message as well. Though no dates or artist names are included in the exhibit, it is implied that these are from a collection of historical artifacts. Within the collection, many pieces use cloth or collected natural materials (feathers, wood), leather, bone, clay, and glass beads. And all of these materials are used in combination with metalwork, both forged and cast. Metals used included silver, gold, aluminum, and iron.
What I would conclude for myself is that modern European artists are finally learning from cultures outside their own, that creating jewelry and body ornamentation is not simply about crafting with gold or precious stones, but also about our relationship with the world around us and that the creation of art can incorporate so much more than those materials the western world has traditionally told us are valuable.