Text : Una Meistere, Arteritory.com
Magazine : PASTAIGA
With the exhibition JEWELLERY IS NOT JUST JEWELLERY, this March PUTTI Art Gallery will celebrate both its 20th anniversary and its denoument. Over the years, PUTTI has been one of the most well-known and active contemporary art galleries in Latvia, in the Baltics and, perhaps, even in Europe. We are proud to say that we will be going the way of all great legends and shooting stars of the art world – ‘live fast, die young’ – without waiting for time to begin the inevitable processes of aging, declining, and finally ending up in a place of stagnation. Just as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Egon Schiele, Jim Morrison, Keith Haring, James Dean, and many others did. However, unlike the above celestial beings, who were at least partially involved in having their life cut down, the closing of PUTTI is a considered, conscious, and well-timed decision. On one hand, it’s radical; on the other, it’s simply logical and contemporary in the most literal of senses. Indeed, it is a final reading of the venture’s nuanced reading of the pulse of the planet, of its creativity and uncompromising daring – through the medium of contemporary jewellery, the very core of PUTTI since its inception.
Over these 20 years, PUTTI art gallery has held more than 130 exhibitions. These presentations not only formed a collective understanding of what contemporary jewellery is, but also challenged the jewellery itself, as well as its creators, wearers, and collectors, to the very limits of creativity. Aesthetically, intellectually and physically showing that an object which we designate as jewellery has no conceptual framework – the only feasible exception being the spirit of the time.
Of the most notable presentations at PUTTI one could point out the international Conceptual Jewellery (2011); Swedish artist Märta Mattsson’s solo show United in Death (2013); the Italian contemporary jewellery exhibition FANTASTICI! Contemporary Italian Jewellery (2013), Dutch designer Ted Noten’s 25 year retrospective Gold, Sweat & Pearls; the provocative installation Do You Want to Exchange Your Ring (2014); Estonian contemporary jewellery artist Tanel Veenre’s solo show Simply Too NATURESKI (2014); the international exhibition Amber in Today’s Contemporary Art Jewellery (2014); 7 Deadly Sins (2014), featuring the work of French conceptual jewellery artist Emmanuel Lacoste; and the international exhibition The Metamorphoses of Pearls in Contemporary and Conceptual Jewellery (2018), among others.
The denouement of the gallery is taking place at a time when the critical issues facing our world are the climate crisis and, in large part, contemporary civilisation’s crisis of values. As it turns out, no one is immune to them – whether they be global corporate sharks, politicians, or each and every human on earth. One must consider one’s own impact – be it ecological, social, moral, or intellectual.
Because it is abundantly clear that the rat race of consumerism eventually knocks the breath out of everyone, even of those who may not yet have a raging wildfire in their backyard and are, for the moment, still watching bucolic butterflies flutter about.
The world has become an open space in which nothing stands alone and isolated, and the poetically named yet harsh reality of ‘the butterfly effect’ is in evidence nearly daily. The words ‘safe’, ‘stable’ and ‘predictable’ have basically disappeared from today’s lexicon. Thanks to the world wide web and social networks, nothing is secret or hidden anymore, yet we must be constantly vigilant of not falling into the trap of ‘fake news’. Giving credence to the fact that this avalanche is unstoppable are such unprecedented incidences as a number of prestigious art institutions (the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museums in New York, the Louvre in Paris, etc.) rejecting donations from the family of pharmaceutical giant Sackler last year due to the firm’s role in the US opioid crisis. Another is the case of British newspaper The Guardian refusing to run advertisements from oil companies. There is also growing discussion about many newly emerging subjects: the voice of art in the current market bubble situation and the responsibility of the artist; the delicate line separating marketing and the truthfulness of the artist’s message; and the decorative aspect of alienated escapism and active engagement in dialogue. Because art is not just art, and jewellery is not just jewellery. Just like words aren’t just words.
What the new content will be, and how sustainable it will be, is one of the great questions of our time, and the search for answers has directly influenced the denouement of PUTTI Art Gallery.
from Exhibition 7 DEADLY SINS, 2015
The need for more, the need for it all – only to put it all in a cage, where it is good for no one. The gatherer has become a slave to it all.
from Exhibition 7 DEADLY SINS, 2015
Being lazy seems so enjoyable. Idleness overcomes, submitting to doing nothing… Seems so tempting to rest the head on a white, fluffy down pillow that always seems to be within grasp. When putting the chook on it, pillow punishes by pricking in its sharp needles
Photo – Fassih Belmokhtar, Sculpture – resin, industrial paint, Object – goose feathers, satin, black silver, stainless steel
Agita Putāne, founder and owner of the gallery, says: ‘Every activity, person and event has its own time. For me, it has been these 20 years which I have dedicated to contemporary and conceptual jewellery. When I opened the gallery, my only condition was my wish to speak to the world in the language of jewellery. I was ready to jump into the unknown. I began with the young Latvian jewellery artists, and only gradually did I come to realise how broad the field of contemporary jewellery really is.
Jewellery is a language of visual signs – sometimes even more concise and apt than words. It’s time-code saturated, and it demands a partner in dialogue, i.e. the wearer of said jewellery, who is just as skilled. I’d say that these twenty years were vastly educational – for myself, for the visitors to the gallery, and for the artists.
From the very beginnings of the gallery, for me, the intellectual aspect of it was always right there beside the aesthetic in terms of importance.
‘PUTTI Art Gallery’s first major challenge was the exhibition Conceptual Jewellery (2011). While contemporary Latvian jewellery artists were already relatively well known on the local scene, conceptual jewellery as a concept was still a somewhat foreign thing. I invited 27 artists – internationally well-known, but unknown to me personally – to participate in the exhibition. Since I did not have, at the time, the humbleness that experience brings, only later did I realize what heavyweights of the jewellery world I had witlessly approached: Ted Noten, Ana Cardim, Gigi Mariani, Nicolas Estrada, Tanel Veenre, Felieke van der Leest … For this show, it was also our first time creating a scenography that would intensify and create a dialogue with the exhibition’s message. From that moment onward, this interaction of space, design details, jewellery, and text would became an integral part of all future PUTTI exhibitions. It was important that the exhibition be an equally powerful event for everyone – the viewers, the clients, the artists, and above all, for myself. Gradually, the gallery took its place in the global network of conceptual jewellery. The level of quality of our exhibitions grew, as did their prominence.
‘The decision to close the gallery was not impulsive. In my opinion, the monopoly that galleries have enjoyed up to now – at least in the jewellery niche – is over. The conventional model of its existence is exhausted; the gallery, as an institution, must change. The main driving force behind this is digitization. In today’s reality, a classic gallery is more like a shop window which you can stand in front of and peruse, and then go online to make your purchases. Every jewellery artist in every corner of the world is now within the reach of one and all. I see no reason for a client to pay more at a gallery if they can just as well look up the artist themselves and buy directly the piece they’ve put their sights on. In the reality of social networks, the artist is perfectly capable of taking care of everything themself. They no longer need a middleman – a gallerist who may even be a bit behind the times. In addition, each project requires a huge resource of energy, time and money. The question of whether this is the most optimal investment of these resources becomes ever more relevant.
Which is why I see the gallery of today as being more of an exhibition space – a platform in which the artist themself is active. It is they who meet the customers and the collectors; it is they who create the feedback loop and the feeling of the pulse of reality. Needless sentiments and misunderstandings are spared because the artist is present. Of course, I do know several jewellery artists who still work only with galleries and who don’t have their own website. Of course, they are all mostly my age (laughs).
At the same time, Agita admits that her own personal relationship with jewellery as a medium will continue even after the gallery closes – as a client, as an observer, and as a viewer. Contemporary jewellery will continue to be an integral partner in her daily dialogue, as well as a part of her identity. It will be a close companion in the next radical challenge that she has set for herself – a complete lifestyle change over the next few years in the form of moving to the countryside. ‘It is an old dream of mine, and I’m happy that it is about to come true.’ Agita adds that it is neither withdrawal nor escape, but rather a quest for new and purposeful meaning in life.
Symbolically, the closing exhibition of the gallery embodies the essence of its activity, clearly demonstrating that jewellery is more than adornment. ‘I don’t think that art can change the world. But art can change the way we think about it,’ says Agita. And jewellery is, in a sense, a factor in stimulating this process of thought – it builds real relationships and compels equally intense participation.
The exhibition JEWELLERY IS NOT JUST JEWELLERY presents the work of 15 artists – savants of contemporary jewellery from all over the world who play a large role in creating our perception of contemporary jewellery as a medium and the message it conveys. Among them are: Ana Cardim (Portugal), Annamaria Zanella (Italy), Barbara Uderzo (Italy), Corrado De Meo (Italy), Emmanuel Lacoste (France), Felieke van der Leest (Norway), Gigi Mariani (Italy), Maija Vītola (Latvia), Maria Rosa Franzin (Italy), Nicolas Estrada (Spain), Reka Lorincz (Hungary), Renzo Pasquale (Italy), Sara Barbanti (Italy), Tanel Veenre (Estonia), and Valdis Brože (Latvia).
Exhibition design of JEWELLERY IS NOT ONLY JEWELLERY. FINALE
Exhibition scenography, idea, concept: fashion design duo “MAREUNROL’S” (Mārīte Mastiņa-Pēterkopa and Rolands Pēterkops). www.mareunrols.com