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Unexpected Pleasures

London’s Design Museum plays host this week to a new exhibition Unexpected Pleasures that charts the development of the contemporary jewellery movement from the 1970s through to today.

By Katie Dominy / 06-12-2012

Unexpected Pleasures is presented through displays in themes, from Worn Out that celebrates the experience of wearing jewellery, Linking Links – the concepts and ideas behind the pieces and A Fine Line – an exploration of the contemporary jewellery movement and its key players. 

The exhibition is curated by Australian jewellery designer and maker Dr Susan Cohn and features a wide range of makers from around the world, such as Wendy Ramshaw, Karl Fritsch, Caroline Broadhead and Dorothea Pruhl, plus a good percentage of Dutch jewellers including Ted Noten, Gijs Bakker, Paul Derrez, Frank Tjepkema, Bas Bouman, Lucy Sarneel, Robert Smit, Herman Hermsen, Suzanne Klemm, Manon Van Kouswijk, Nel Linnssen, Suska Mackert, Iris Nieuwenburg, Ruudt Peters and Katja Prins.

We asked Cohn if she thought that there is a typically 'Dutch' approach to contemporary jewellery.

“Dutch thinking and aesthetics has always been very influential in design. The Contemporary Jewellery Movement Amsterdam, along with London and Munich, was a key centre for makers and collections and for the intellectual debate on contemporary jewellery. Paul Derrez, also a jeweler and represented in Unexpected Pleasures, established the first international contemporary jewellery gallery, Galerie Ra, in 1975. This gallery, which represents many Dutch jewellers, showed Dutch thinking. Dutch approach has been pervasive in contemporary jewellery. However, I think it is ultimately more about individual personalities rather than a Dutch style.”

Can you tell us about the pieces on display by Ted Noten?

“Ted is the wild boy of Dutch jewellery and design. His ideas are quirky, intelligent, playful and beautifully made. He challenges the boundaries of what jewellery is and the ideas in contemporary jewellery.

“There are three works by Ted in Unexpected Pleasures. His Tiara for Maxima is political in another way. It’s a reflection of the way in which the contemporary Dutch state sees itself as open to mildly subversive creative ideas. A competition was held to create a tiara for the new Dutch crown prince’s bride, Princess Maxima. Given the prince’s known enthusiasm for biking, Noten used the form of a motorcycle helmet, from which the tiara was cut. Chew Your Own Brooch delegates the designer’s role to the wearer; individual designs are created by chewing gum and the results are then cast in silver, gold-plated, and mounted on a pin. Mercedes Benz E-classe 210, is a series of brooches cut from the body of a single Mercedes. In fact, one client was so taken with the idea that he commissioned Noten to make a special brooch cut from his own car, so creating an object that adorns both wearer and, through its absence, the vehicle.”

And Gijs Bakker?

“Gijs Bakker is one of the key people in the contemporary jewellery field. Alongside Emmy Van Leersum, Gijs was an active instigator of the debate around the contemporary jewellery movement. He has also always worked as a designer and continues to pursue both jewellery and design with the same passion. Gijs has been a major influence in both contemporary jewellery and design world. His imagination and work in Droog and Chi ha paura..? are a good example.

“Gijs’s work appears in all three sections of the exhibition, showing important older pieces as well as newer works. Significant early pieces are his aluminium Dew Drop neckpiece from 1967, which one of his first works laminating photography. Gijs’s bracelet, Circle in a Circle is a production piece based on a vacuum-formed circle that has been made in its hundreds since it was originally designed in 1967 and his Porsche bracelet where he used CAD design to stretch the form of a Porsche car into a bracelet.”

Unexpected Pleasures runs 5 December 2012 to 3 March 2013 at Design Museum, London

Main image: Dr Susan Cohn, photo by Koray Kilicli
Other images: 1. Gijs Bakker – Dew Drop, 1982 2. Caroline Broadhead,  Veil, 1983 3. Karl Fritsch – Steinhaufen, 2004 4. Paul Derrez · Pleated Collar · 1982 photo Luke Hayes 5. Marjorie Schick · Spiralling Discs (32 necklaces and bracelets) · 2006 – photo Luke Hayes 6. Mercedes Benz, Ted Noten 7. Beverley Price · Nespresso Collar · 2008–9 – photo Luke Hayes

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