View the Françoise van den Bosch Collection: An Online Trove of Contemporary Jewelry
By Saskia Kolff – Published on Art Jewelry Forum, 09/09/19
Nearby is a picture of a piece by a young Helen Britton, a brooch titled Garden of Infinity. Small shells and glass and plastic “gems” are mounted on a silver lemniscate, the symbol for infinity. The baroque shape of this piece is reminiscent of the popular classic bow brooch.
With Jing He, a few photos on, things are different. Another brooch, this one made from an ordinary kitchen spoon, folded steel and plastic. Jing explored how ready-mades (even a pointy branch on a tree) can make a connection with the body as Potential Pins.
Back in the day, Françoise abandoned gold and silver because of their old-fashioned, bourgeois image. These days, for some, gold and silver have acquired yet another meaning, one of exploitation and environmental damage. Ivory, gemstones, coral, plastic, blood diamonds—almost each material has its dark side. This makes picking a material a message in itself, more so now than ever before. A recent addition to the collection was a shoulder brooch from the series Parrot Devotees, by Marion Delarue, made from absolutely beautiful feathers sourced from ordinary fowl raised for meat plants. Marion is concerned about the luxury industry causing the extinction of animals. But she tells other stories as well, about Jean Cocteau’s parrot, and how we always feel the need to pretend to be prettier than we are. Social commentary, carried out in Chinese feather marquetry—with this ode to a craft she throws you off the scent once again. It brings to mind another work in the collection, made 30 years earlier by Otto Künzli, and also meant to be worn on the shoulder (which is a coincidence, because shoulder pieces aren’t very common). When Mickey Mouse Was Born is a combination of an egg of Columbus and Mickey Mouse.
Gradually, the practice of using jewelry as a means to openly express the personal or political has become more widespread. In 1987, award winner Esther Knobel, from Israel, did so for the discerning viewer: Her necklace, a little tin train, is about the Holocaust, and the text on it, “Ford lasts longer,” refers to the anti-Semitism of Henry Ford and countless people after him. Lin Cheung, who’s English and won the award in 2018, has a less covert approach. Delayed Reactions is a series of emoji buttons cut from lapis lazuli in the colors of the European flag. Tiny stars form a Slightly Sad face, which is a direct response to the announcement of Brexit. Lin’s smiley doesn’t seem to have much in common with Françoise’s iconic two-piece black-and-white aluminum bracelet. The bracelet looks smooth and cool, but its two parts require an intimate act; to function as a bracelet, they need the arm of the wearer. Lin says she recognizes this in Françoise’s work: The human touch, by fingers or hand, turns a piece of jewelry into jewelry.
The award winner before Lin Cheung was Marc Monzó, from Barcelona. His clear-cut designs and attention to execution seem to share the introvert DNA of work by Françoise. And, something else they have in common, his delicate jewelry is made in small editions. There is a significant difference, though. Marc is the art director of a Spanish jewelry brand, Misui. Noon Passama, another artist who has some works in the Françoise van den Bosch Collection, also combines her uncommissioned work with designing for this company. Not too long ago, some people would have considered a combination like this as bowing to commerce. Remember, Françoise’s generation was fighting to get away from both the jewelry trade and crafts. Maybe the recognition by galleries and museums, once it was accomplished by the rebel jewelry makers, remained the main norm for too long. Nowadays, people are less dismissive of artists who also put their design talents to use in related sectors. It’s another example of the revolutions taking place now—concealed and not as urgent as in the 70s. In a few decades’ time, we’ll know whose side history was on. It will be reflected in the Françoise van den Bosch Collection. About the author: Saskia Kolff is a Dutch art historian. When she got her degree in the mid-90s, her interest was in architecture and town planning, but it has shifted over the years to smaller and smaller and often wearable objects. At the moment, her antennae are tuned to questions about materials raised in the Anthropocene.