Is jewellery art?

Annamaria Zanella, Bacco, 2012, ph. M.F.Magliani

Il gioiello è arte? Is jewellery art?
Text by
Angela Madesani, member of the jury invited for the  2018 edition of Gioielli in Fermento.


Many of us have studied art history in high school using the manual of Giulio Carlo Argan, an excellent instrument to get in touch with a subject both complicated and densely linked to other disciplines. As I studied, however, what always surprised me in the study and production of the same artist was the division into spheres. I always asked myself what was the sense of facing three Michelangelo’s: the painter, the sculptor and the architect. A sort of secular trinity, which in my view didn’t make much sense.

With time, as art historian in the contemporary era, I have often dealt with artists who use various languages in their study and I have never felt the need to divide their activity as if it dealt with different areas.

Sol Lewitt in his Wall Drawings is the same artist who adopt photographs for the Photogrids. Luigi Veronesi in his long artistic career was painter, graphic artist, photographer and film maker, just like Bruno Munari and certainly we are not concerned with different personalities. The same goes for Vincenzo Agnetti, David Oppenheim and Vito Acconci.
Each time I talked with Cioni Carpi, a multifaceted, complex artist, who worked in painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance, cinema, photography he explained that the different languages used over the course of the years weren’t an end but a means to reach a certain result.

In the last one hundred and twenty years many artists used different means and it makes no sense that this gives rise to a hierarchy where painting and sculpture are at the top of the pyramid of the art language.

It would be anachronistic and above all useless, today, where the possibilities in art are ample, complex, with variety in structure, to speak of art as so-called major and minor arts.

Let’s come to the case of jewels. Faced with the works in this field of Lucio Fontana, Louise Bourgeois, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Alexander Calder, Meret Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso and many others we certainly aren’t speaking of objects of mere excellent craftsmanship but a dialogue with the rest of their production. Their jewels are works just like the others. What changes, at times, is the dimension, the materials but this shouldn’t jeopardize the collocation within the artist’s work. Tags, sectors, restricted sectors only close and block in a sort of prison our studying them. To categorize is to discriminate.

Nicoletta Frigerio, Mediterranean Alabasters, sculpture works 2010-2017

Often, over the years, I have dealt with the work of Nicoletta Frigerio, an artist who also works with jewels. Certainly the works that we wear are no less important than her standing sculptures. They are fruit of her study of materials, forms. The dimensions and different use cannot and should not be a limit. The jewels, designed and created by an artist are not in fact craft but works of art in all effects and deserve a correct placement within the history of the artist and consequently in the history of art.

Angela Madesani
[©Gioielli in Fermento Catalog, May 2018, page 9-11, All rights reserved]