On my last day in Germany I went to Pforzheim, a couple of hours away from Munich. Pforzheim even though not a big town, is a centre for jewellery and watchmaking and is the home of the Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim. The museum’s collections cover periods staring from art nouveau, through art deco, the beginnings of the contemporary jewellery movement in the 60s and 70s, and right up to now. I was hoping to see more pieces on display, as I’m pretty sure there must be much more tucked away in storage from what I’ve seen published in books. There was also a temporary exhibition of contemporary jewellery by Israeli artists which included the work of Attai Chen (from the Munich Academy who won the Herbert Hofmann prize a couple of years ago) and Dana Hakim. Chen’s work is constructed primarily of paper, layered and sculpted into these post-apocalyptic, baroque formations, I really wanted to touch them. You can see the works here.

Next day I caught the train over to Amsterdam, where I had made the mistake of booking into a Christian youth hostel because it was in my price range. After the extreme social jewellery explosion that I had experienced in Munich, this was the opposite end of the spectrum. Completely. After the two girls from New York left, I didn’t even get so much as a ‘hello’ from any of the other guests and they all seemed to go to bed at 8pm. I think I would have been better off putting up with the marijuana mutants over at the Flying Pig, at least it would have been more interesting.

Anyway so while in Amsterdam I went to Gallery Louise Smit, who had a show on by Dana Hakim (whose work i’d just seen at Pforzheim) and Jasmin Matzakow. Hakim makes three dimensional tubular and ovoid forms using perforated iron mesh, rubber, plastic, thread and lacquer. Go here to see some pictures of her work.  I liked the body of work at Louise Smit, it was much more cohesive and I was more able to get an idea of her practice than from the melange that was at Pforzheim. Matzakow makes beautiful carved wooden objects, as either brooches or neckpieces. Her forms reference boats and antique boxes which she carves from wood. She pushes her technique to the extreme, chipping away at the wood until she breaks through to the other side, creating the thinnest of cross-sections and graceful curves and parabolas. They evoke the look of mines or archeological digs. You can look at her work on her website. I liked.

About 90mins by train away from Amsterdam is  the town of Nijmegen where the iconic Gallery Marzee is located. It was well worth the trip to get there. Marzee is 3 stories of jewellery nirvana. They have displays of the work of their represented artists, temporary solo exhibitions by jewellers and silversmiths, a bookshop, postcards and small affordable multiples by many of the designers as well as the displays of their permanent collection upstairs all running concurrently. I could have spent a week there. I really liked the pieces by Flóra Vági that were made from slices of books covered in cold enamel. The strips of paper were curled and sculpted into these floral formations, great idea, wish I’d had it. Anders Ljungberg’s work was this awesome crazy raising which I loved because it was like silversmithing done by Willy Wonka on acid, as opposed to the usual seriousness of the artform. I also really liked the work of Jenny Klemming who made rings from gnarled and twisted tree knobs.

In Amsterdam is also Gallery Ra where I had a lovely visit and the lady there was very nice and friendly, which makes such a difference to your impression of a place, gallerists can often be a tad snooty. The exhibition was by Karin Herwegh who makes tiny silver miniature figures and boats in her signature style. It was good to see work that can be both figurative and narrative but also contemporary without being twee.

I went to the Rijksmuseum where there was lots of old Dutch art, and a bunch of Rembrandts including his massive master work The Night Watch. There were also these amazing dolls houses that wealthy Dutch women used to keep as hobbies in the 17th century. One of the ones in the Rijksmuseum apparently cost as much as a real house and was an exact replica of the owners residence.

I also went to the Rembrandthuis which was the actual home where Rembrandt van Rijn lived on Jodenbreestraat from 1639 to 1658. It is furnished, not with Rembrandt’s original possessions, but with period items similar to Rembrandt’s. His possessions are known from an inventory that was taken of the entire house’s contents when he filed for bankruptcy and also from his paintings and drawings executed of the interiors while he lived there. I really liked this museum, I love being able to see how people lived and worked in times long ago. I saw a demonstration on Rembrandt’s engraving techniques on copper, and of a print made from a copper plate and a demonstration on how oil paint was made from pigments and ochres back in the day. I was fascinated by both, like many artists, I have an extreme fetish for art materials and paint. Rembrandt also had a room just full of weird and wonderful items that he collected which interested him; the stuff ranged from skulls, shells, butterflies, indigenous art, Greek and Roman sculptures, corals, weapons, and Venetian glass. His art albums were also kept here, which contained 8000 drawings and prints by famous artists and were his most prized posessions. It was a space full of inspiration, I wish it was in my house.

Rembrandthuis exterior

etching gravers, copper plate, ink knife

dividers, set squares in Rembrandt’s studio

pigments in Rembrandt’s studio

The collections room


Pforzheim & Amsterdam | 2012 | B L O G