Jewellery: to see as art

Jewellery has become a too broad word. Why has it become so multiple? So diverse, to a point that the very word jewellery has today such a generic meaning that no longer permits to indicate to what it is that we pretend accurately to refer to? This word no longer allows specifying any element within the vast typology that it includes in itself. Therefore, it is nowadays always necessary to appeal to some complement of significance – to some additional or more detailed explanation – in order to clarify what it is that we intend to focus on, with the purpose of opening a dialogue with the ones that listen to us. It is necessary to make a typology, to which I will head for later on. Nevertheless, I consider that, in the first place, we have to admit that jewellery is driving the sociolinguistics to the need to study this matter. Here I leave it as a message, for this is not the path that I have chosen.

Ana Campos, 2012

[Conference paper at MuVin, Valencia, Spain, integrated in the Sinposium Melting Point ]


Jewellery has become a too broad word. Why has it become so multiple? So diverse, to a point that the very word jewellery has today such a generic meaning that no longer permits to indicate to what it is that we pretend accurately to refer to? This word no longer allows specifying any element within the vast typology that it includes in itself. Therefore, it is nowadays always necessary to appeal to some complement of significance – to some additional or more detailed explanation – in order to clarify what it is that we intend to focus on, with the purpose of opening a dialogue with the ones that listen to us. It is necessary to make a typology, to which I will head for later on. Nevertheless, I consider that, in the first place, we have to admit that jewellery is driving the sociolinguistics to the need to study this matter. Here I leave it as a message, for this is not the path that I have chosen.

In this matter there are historical and contextual moments, which made new directions emerge. That is what I’m interested in briefly introducing. This typological lodging, houses types of jewellery that can be seen as art and others that does not. The opening process that started with the Enlightenment opened many roads for freedom and democracy to develop. Kant introduced the idea of an individual able to think with his own mind and to judge by his own taste. Taste as a form of reasoning and freedom of choice will, however, open other unforeseen paths that do not have anything to do with art or aesthetics but rather with types of jewellery like I will focus. Kant didn’t appreciate ornaments of any sort. Yet I must add the development add the modern mechanical arts to his landscape. Together with the freedom to choose after one’s individual taste, the development of modern mechanical arts also made it possible to gradually redirect jewellery towards democratic directions. Already in Kant’s time, and progressively during the nineteenth and twentieth century, jewellery could be freely chosen, intertwined with fashions and other culturally meaningful fields. On the other hand, since the beginning of twentieth century, many artists have created jewellery, willing to break traditional terroirs of art. Arround the middle of the twentieth century, embedded in a specific historical context, a different type of jewellery arises, independent from fashion jewellery and artist jewellery. This one corresponds to contemporary jewellery and to self-conscious individuals who created a matrix of symbolic writing and critical languages and reflexive, which follow other paths. Today, all these types are coexistent, but must be distinguished. These are the proposes of this essay, which I going to pursue step by step.

At a first step, lets consider that together with the Arts and Crafts movement, it was made possible to propose a horizontal process of emancipation of the artisan, at par with the artist. Still, in jewellery and other paths, Arts and Crafts suggest naturalistic shapes and contemplative aesthetical experiences. A similar nature corresponds to the German Werkbund, the Vienna Secession and Werkstätte, and other federations. What I want to underline now it is not shapes of any kind. It is that – between consensus and dissensus – they configured a Pan-European network, a cohesion force with a humanist nature. This network configured a passage of testimony into Gropius. Like the first Bauhaus, they all propose equally a total art – Gesamtkunstwerk – an influential concept in sectors of the arts in the first decades of the 20th century.[1]

In the case of this Pan-European network, total art differs for instance from the Futuristic point of view. It associates the then problematic social and cultural life, which by then had nothing to do with horizontal human rights. Gropius was also willing to reconfigure the ghost of the machine. To him, the machine wouldn’t oppress men neither would be against craft, like Morris saw it. But it could improve working processes, with interweaved collaborations of artists, craftsmen, engineers, etc. With Gropius, the Bauhaus program will direct itself towards a kind of design project that had as a purpose the reflection about social and cultural a priory, based on resolution of problems under a defined objective. It was a social functionalism, like defended by Argan.[2] By doing so, Gropius and his followers introduced the design pathway, even if these last redirected that program in the then called objective direction, and abandoned crafts.

With the industrial revolution, several serially produced types of jewellery emerge as commodities made with new and accessible materials. Some, with their geometrical shapes, come from the Bengel factory in Idar-Oberstein. There, they where no longer so much concerned with humanist reasons that would concern social paths. Often the designers and makers names are not mentioned, like it happened with Hoffman, for instance. Even thought, from this kind of factories, designers and industrials propose democratic experiences to the public sphere, since they produced accessible jewels for a majority. The same happened, for example, with previous jewels sold in Liberty & Co. These followed naturalistic lines, in Morris steps. They all configure cultural symbols and kinds of taste socially and contextually situated. However, on what reception in concerned, a democratic dilemma will emerge, which I will onwards focus on. Part of it corresponded to a concern of Morris. He stressed that we must be vigilant, since “trade is creating a market demand,” and the “captain of industry” interested on it “will get the benefit.” Therefore “the pastiche has been on the market.”[1] These seem current concerns. They don’t point out to Bengel, but they point to some costume jewellery, which is our contemporary.

Likewise, in this outlook, other philosophical questions arise. Besides pastiches, where resides the frontier between artifacts that may offer us daily experiences, with a cultural format, and when aesthetic experiences are offered to us?

First, we can face the gestation of an imaginary tree, with historically and cultural configured roots, which will ramify till nowadays. The Arts & Crafts Movement and the Bauhaus, by associating two types of educational activity, the first one informal, the second one at school, configure two main branches that will generate two pathways. The first one is supported by crafts, which can be intertwined with art. The second one goes towards design. Far away from following a purist path, this tree that has been ramifying until now, has branches that touch each other or are intertwined. It will multiply itself accompanying changes and visions of the world. Today all of this types of jewels coexist and may confront themselves, in a global world where what is seeable matters.

Second, we must consider that most jewels are made to adorn our bodies, and offer us daily experiences that, being related with cultural meanings, are often also related to showing-off and/or contemplating. The word jewellery houses pastiches, commodity-things, or say placebo-things, as well as design, craft and art. Or, in other words, it refers itself to artifacts that communicate solely through their visibility, such as:

[a] The commodity-things, which contribute to aestheticize a world reasoned under capitalist purposes, like in Morris words.

[b] Design pathways, which communication is mostly objectively reasoned.

[c] Crafts, which is not much concerned with any kind of communication. They show skills and care for nice forms.

All these are different from other jewels, whose type of communication is symbolic, in the art pathway. These conciliate reasoned intentions and sensibility to questions of the world and contemporary life. A matrix, a singular language and a discourse are self-created by each artist. Theses languages are non-declarative and shall be interpreted without any kind of grammar that would serve as a basis. Most times these jewels include reflexive pathways. They invite us beyond the visible, to live aesthetic experiences in the art pathway. This means they shall also propose as reflexive experiences.

This is just a first step. These pathways propose us types of experiences that can to be understood by analysing specific ways of communicating and the type of intentions they carry. We are now faced with a question that has to be subdivided, helping me also to outline a typology. Intentionally I will not mention for now contemporary jewellery.


[1] Two kinds of symbolic communication

In jewellery, like it happens with other objects from our everyday, the frontier between things and art becomes often tenuous, reason why it is so difficult to detect limits only through perception. This differentiation occupied Arthur Danto along his whole life. After Danto, art includes “embodied meanings,” which are freely created and allow us to distinguish art from other things. These embodied meanings are metaphors and other rhetoric tropes that constitute the symbolic sense of a work of art. Rhetoric tropes have a non-replicable nature and are intentional, they mean to tell us something thorough a symbolic statement, which most often is difficult to understand and interpreter.[3]The embodied meanings come from the kantian “aesthetical ideal.” This means a “representation of the imagination which induces much thought, yet without the possibility of any definite thought whatever, i.e., concept, being adequate to it, and which language, consequently, can never get quite on level terms with or render completely intelligible.”[4] Gerard Vilar underlines that “with the notion of aesthetic ideal Kant opened the door to the notion of artistic languages.”[5] These languages correspond to what I meant in the previous paragraph, trying to start to distinguish art jewellery from other types of jewellery. Art includes intentional tropes and attitudes, both symbolic.

I want to add a point to Danto’ distinction between symbolic meanings, of art, from common meanings, of things. Vilar adds that things may also include cultural and contextual meanings, which through reflexion can generate artistic symbolic meanings.[6] Lets follow Vilar now. By tradition, all primordial adornments and jewels contain cultural symbolic meanings, through which they communicate. The adornments communicate through socio-cultural codes. A wedding ring is a visible sign that we all know – even if we do not take marriage in great account – and it is also a symbol of union between two individuals. Jewels made of gold and diamonds, which often reproduce conservative models, are visible signs of status, nevertheless among these, some hold historic or cultural paths or personal memories that make them symbolic to the owner and/or user. Or, for other reasons, they make themselves significant to types of public that identifies itself in its way of communicating. Piercing, tattoos, Hip-Hop jewels are also symbolic for cultural public segments, in order to make visible the identity of individuals. If we think about design, about fashion accessories that change accordingly to cyclical trends, or if we think about the IPhone or any other device created by Steve Jobs – visually alike and used as jewels – they are self-excluded from any pretension of artistic symbolic communication. Until now, they all have symbolic meanings that go along with segmented reasons according to social groups. None of these types have artistic intentions. Besides communicating as cultural and/or social symbols, they also keep their traditional function: to adorn the body. That is, they do not include a free matrix and created languages, with metaphors or other rhetoric tropes that surprises us, willing to be interpreted.


[2] Artists as jewellers

It is well known that many visual artists, since the edge of the 20th century, have created jewels. Most miniaturized their works, and often ordered its manufacture to a craftsman. The fact that most artists ordered their jewels it is not philosophically important. It’s of common agreement, between philosophers like Danto, Vilar, Rancière and many others that the medium and the making do not constitute art by itself. Miniaturizing could, in cases, be an intention. This kind of jewellery should be analysed together with the artist’ work and intentions. We would have to choose examples to try to understand it. Roy Lichtenstein, for instance, didn’t gain much by miniaturizing his paintings. They became again like the cartoons he amplified in his paintings. If I would follow a common sense, I could argue that these jewels became understandable and acceptable as art by recognition of the name of some Artist – named with upper case letter – and, consequently, easily converted into art. However, what all these artists intended – and recent ones still do – is to break rules of the system of art, to break its limits and territories. This is what all art does. It talks about art, redirects art, brings disorders and proposes us unexpected aesthetical experiences. What these artists do not intend to do is to create an autonomous jewellery, that is to create a new and free entity with embodied meanings, like all art. With them a jewel keeps its traditional function: it is an adornment, even if intentionally it breaks rules of art. These two last tasks correspond to contemporary jewellery. This one may be wearable, but dropped the function of adorning our bodies. It brings new proposal of aesthetical experiences. I will come back to this last subject.

Kant understood art as “purposiveness without a purpose” [Zweckmässigkeit ohne Zweck]. Without any interest art is a stimulator of intelligible and sensitive experiences in this absence of purpose. For Kant, art function was merely aesthetic, at the same time that it produced and was constituent of the aesthetics.[7] Philosophy of the 20th century will introduce advances based on Kant’s, either through analytic or more pragmatic revisions, accompanying art advances. Its task is to follow art transfigurations. In these steps, different types of art from the 20th century have fought to get ready of any function and purposiveness, like Surrealism and Dadaism. This was one of their main intentions increased by André Breton. The same can be noticed in contemporary jewellery as it abandons the function of adorning the body.

With precedents in Duchamp – art will corrupt the aesthetics of the beautiful, will make itself reflexive – as Kant defended too – and approaching itself to life, will give us motives for thinking about our world. In short, art will break distances and frontiers between itself and the world. It will propose experiences – as it is the case of Pop artists –, that make difficult the distinction between art and things, having this problematic occupied and concerned philosophy, setting the nucleus of Danto’s work. As Duchamp, the Pop artists also propose intellectual turns of a philosophical type, thinking and reshaping art itself, while producing their art works. Today, artists propose us artistic investigations, intersections between fields such as sciences, technologies, crafts, etc. Art is interested in delocalization, deterritorialization, desespecification, and participative experiences.

Aesthetic experiences like these are also offered by contemporary jewellery. It is not craft, it is no art and it’s both interweaved as an auto-conscientious hybrid field that takes in account todays’ world. And particular motivations of each jeweller offer us particular aesthetic experiences of trying to interpret works through reading metaphors and other tropes. Even if it even if bets in attitudes such us delocalization, deterritorialization, desespecification, like all art contemporary jewellery speaks through rhetoric tropes. It does not want to change the world, but to introduce dialogues with us. To change the world in different directions is a task of science, of technology, of design. Art gives us motives to think about our world. In a democracy, art is a sort of regulator. It might emerge the possibility of making us rethink about a priory ways of thinking and so reflect about our world. As Vilar says, “art is a mode of thinking, sentient thinking addressed to sentient thinkers. It is a mode of communication where the rules of normal communication – be everyday or expert communication – are suspended, subverted or cancelled. An artwork is always then a device to produce some kind of thinking process different of the usual discourses that can be described as reflection, resonance or reverberation.”[8]

Danto defended that in order to understand a work of art, one will have to understand the metaphor that it holds, being necessary “an atmosphere of the art’s theory” in order to constitute it as art and a world of art to see as art.[9] Danto was right when he said that in the contemporary world, we can no longer count on with any signal of perceptive evidence between what is and what is not art. The frontier resides in the purpose of sense of a work, in the artist’s intentions, which is to be analysed as if it was a written text by the Artworld critics. Vilar agrees with Danto on reading the works of art meaning as if it was a text, trying to understand its complex non-propositional symbolic communication, which is one that does not follow predictable rules. Further, Vilar introduced both a revision of Danto’ art world, as world reasons, and a pragmatic revision of the kantian reason. With Vilar, the art world is not just the dantian intellectual world of the critics, but one that includes all individuals that reason and judge, those that are reflexive and autonomous citizens in the kantian sense. Vilar points out a democratic turn that I also adopt, where these individuals are all of us. When a work of art surprises us, our aesthetic experience is to recognize is quality or strength and proceed with dialogs with it, trying to discover fragments of is implicit meaning.[10].

In this panorama, to see as art, the title of this essay, is a task open to all of us.


[3] Design, in one turn, that also pursues intellectual purposes, but does not propose complex experiences in order to attempt to understand an artifact. It is objective. Differently from art, it is oriented towards another field, the one of the useful things. These artifacts can be faced as forms of purposiveness with a purpose – by opposing the previous kantian principle. Design has a double nature: it links aesthetic and capitalist interests together. Thus, design is not constituted as a disinterested activity in the kantian sense. It supposes creativity, but it is conditioned. Different types of design, throughout its history, have balanced this dual nature, making stand out more one or the other of its aspects, and articulating, sometimes, humanist, ethic or democratic objectives. This is the case of Gropius, who, in his case, does not transform humanism into merchandise, disguising it, like many posterior designers did. As conscious citizens, we should be aware that our contemporary green design, for instance, is sometimes an ethical disguise of a commodity. Gropius is also responsible for having introduced a designing praxis that follows rational principles and purposes project as a priori. Namely, as in architecture, each project counts with the collaboration of one or more designers that proceed to creation coordinated as a team, articulating diverse experiences, serving a predetermined mercantile objective, depending on industrial and technological experiences.[11] From here, this group envisages how to create products predictably useful and functional for social everyday life. This aim has an intentional nature and, as defended by Potter, if a team does not seek a purpose, it will not make good design, nor an artifact will reach its end as a functional explicit utility, taking the risk to pass into the artistic, or even into the artisan field.[12] Therefore we see that, differently from art, to be useful is a pretension of validity of design and with what it sets the frontier with art. In its creative component, design neither orients itself towards what it is nor towards what it should be, but it is conditioned by its capitalist and mercantile component. A reflective study about design, in its immense variety, doesn’t have to include comprehension attempts of any enigmatic nature. It is reasoned, at times sensitive to ethics, like social design, for instance, but it belongs intentionally and almost solely to the world of the useful and visible. Furthermore, not the types of forms are the ones that distinguish design from arts or from other things. The key to distinguish design from the unreasoned things – those that are social placebos – will be in trying to discover the efficiency of its purposes, since design intends to be effective and functional in its usefulness. Even if for jewellery, useful does not mean the same as for a chair, a lamp, a fashion accessory or an IPhone, jewels created by designers follow this same type of purposes. Jewels are often associated with symbolic meanings, but in this case, as in other previous cases – rappers jewels, wedding rings, etc. – those symbolic senses are either social or cultural ones or they attributed by the users. This mans it is an a posteriori attribution of sense. Implicit meanings do not integrate the designer’s intentions, who have created artifacts in order to make them visible, that is to say, in order to appoint something. As all the artifacts created by designers – as much or more than arts – these jewels also hover within those unreasoned things, within merchandise that floods the world for a supposed aesthetization, as a sort of gigantic Photoshop operation with no other objective, besides transforming things and subjects into commodities.


[4] The Kunsthandwerk – literally artistic-handicraft – is, in the contemporaneity, the most direct heir of certain principles of Morris. As Morris defended, even nowadays it is connected with pleasant daily experiences. On the one hand, there is the pleasure of the manufacturer who works in his workshop, not limited by forecasts or market rules. On the other hand, we have the public that contemplates, elects and uses them, accordingly to his taste or some kind of cultural beauty, absent of any work of reflection. This is a world with memory. However it is so oblivious to the time spent, as it is to reflect upon the visibility or upon the neoliberalism of the market that characterise today’s world. Artistic only qualifies the mastery in the execution. Artistic crafts are somewhat concerned with creativity, little or nothing concern with some kind of intentions, as artists or designers, or proposals of reflectivity, as artists, and is connected with a segment of market with undefined characteristics. Here included are the manufacturing of guitars and other musical instruments, dependent of its specific function, the cabinet-making, the precious metalwork and another type of jewellery.

What these artists do not intend to do is to create an autonomous jewellery, that is to create a new and free entity with embodied meanings, like all art. With them a jewel keeps its traditional function: it is an adornment, even if intentionally it breaks rules of art. I will come back to these two last sentences.

[5] Almost without referring until now the contemporary jewellery, I consider that I have opened paths to distinguish it from other types of jewellery. Beforehand, it is by approach with contemporary art that emerges its designation, because it carries intentions of configuring sense and to communicate through symbolic meanings. That is to say, contemporary jewellers think jewellery: they investigate about jewellery. They do not just make jewellery. They work on metaphors and implicit meanings. They do not work in order to adorn the body – to beautify it or aestheticize it – but they do refer the body or work on the body. Many jewellers, even if not all, are concerned with wearability. They are attentive to life and to the transfigurations of the public sphere, in a work of democratic self-conscious participation that does not pretend to transform the world, but to propose us to think about it. This kind of jewellery is hybrid and it has memory. On one hand contemporary jewellery gains it autonomy by crossing fields, by reconfiguring arts and crafts traditions. As in all mixed worlds, identity and otherness are intertwined. In this case it qualifies each field knowhow – art and arts seen as crafts – and drives reflexively in both ways, in order to configure differences from other types of art. Also as all mixed worlds it has the capacity to make humour and to defy each field. The world of jewellery is, for the same reason, an other-space, where various experiences, even seemingly incompatible, produce ways of life or multiple and mixed effects, in the foulcaultian sense.[13] On the other hand memory takes place. Many jewellers consider the primordial adornment as seed. Nevertheless I consider that this occidental designation is incorrect, namely because its principal purpose is not to adorn – or say aestheticize the body – but to designate some coded social order and roles, that is to make it visible among a group and establish differences from others. Contemporary jewellers take these adornments in its essence, as source of symbolic cultural and social meaning, making it free from codes, towards a type of symbolic communication that assumes freedom with the consciousness of participating reasonably in the public sphere. Thereby they introduce turns and reconfigure rules. Interweaving sensibility and self-consciousness they establish criticism and discussion in its own creative process and. As in all arts, they propose us complex experiences through forms of communication unexpected and intentionally disordered, that is to say, out of a pre-established order. They defy the philosophical aesthetics, not to propose that it commands these complex puzzles, but in order to understand it and to interpret its intentions. I therefore defend that contemporary jewellery must be studied as self-conscious and reflexive art, in order to try to fit it in the extension of art, with its own intentions and attending to the characteristics of the contemporary jewellery world.

This world presents differences in relation to the world of the present art. Nowadays, it is rather associable, even if it is not the same, to the world of art as it was configured in the 1970s. For Morgan, from the 1980s onwards, the configuration of the art world will stretch itself progressively towards a course of institutional nature, until it establishes itself as a social, political and economic corporation that, working associated to alternations of lobbies that institute interests in a panorama of trendy nature, associates also critics and curators on the same logic. The world of art is configured today as a basis where art and artists find support to emerge.[14] In a chain of logic reaction, art made itself a kind of relevant motive, so far as cultural commodity and irrelevant in order to reconfigure the aesthetic discussion. For Morgan, this art proposes us “speeches” framed by fashion ideas and by rhetoric locked in a hardened academic language. “Over and over again, trendy journals, dealers, collectors, curators, and critics at trendy symposia have cited the discussion of aesthetics in relations to works of art as irrelevant.”[15] Morgan finds gaps, weaves an intelligent critic and opens paths for philosophy. Even if this author chooses a line situated in the institutional philosophy – and I am interested in a discursive atmosphere, or say a philosophy seen as world of reasons that interlaces sensitivity – I consider that in this case it is interesting to follow his path.

Morgan drives me to consider the world of jewellery as something similar to what he designates as the artist’s support community, as he notes in the New Yorker art world in the 1970s. Jewellers, their work and the transfigurations they propose, configure the central nucleus of this community, from which the critics are almost absent. This kind of institutional agents are generally perceived as outsiders to the perimeter of the community, in an approaching way to what Morgan also describes as its performance of the art world in the 1970s. However, differently to Morgan description, I take the risk to speculate, by saying that other institutions like certain galleries are somewhat included in the same jewellery community, as a platform of sense, to where the hybrid nature of contemporary jewellery extends. As one would expect, galleries assume their commercial motive, as part of that support of joint convenience for both gallery owners and jewellers. But certain gallery owners are also relational promoters involved in contemporary jewellery, as if they would open disinterested parenthesis between mercantile interests. There are gallery owners who are active mediators between museums and collectors, but also between different entities such as the academic ones, foundations and associations. For certain gallery owners, as for jewellers, contemporary jewellery is relevant, contrarily to the type of irrelevance of art that Morgan detects in the post-Warhol art world. Consciously outsiders to this corporative mentality of the current contemporary art world, the same jewellers, as well as these late institutions, when they intervene, they make punctual protocols between them and with other institutions from the Art World (the traditional one, written here with upper case to differentiate). Also, the world of jewellery works as a community, even if this has expanded itself as a net with inter-connections, both professional and personal, to a global scale. However, the world of jewellery works, and simultaneously, does not work, as the World of Art. Once again, as in all hybrid worlds, it is capable of knowing and electing consciously on both sides. It supports itself in institutions, apparently alike – galleries, museums, collectors – but these work in a different way. It doesn’t move millions like todays World of Art, nor it articulates itself with corporative lobbies. It doesn’t imitate, nor it is a province of the World of Art. Neither it is an institutionalised margin, as Morgan says, because it is not much studied, nor instituted by theory, nor by critic. It is rather that world of mixed nature in a continuous process of redefinition by the will of a community in collaboration. Jewellers do not run after fame and less after fortune. However, they run for the representativeness, even if they are not subject to a matrix, definer of a style or regulator of any mean, as Danto explains, regarding the configuration of the world of art. For Danto, “fashion, as it happens, favours certain rows of the style matrix: museums, connoisseurs, and others, are makeweights in the Artworld (…) perhaps to gain entry in a special prestigious exhibition.”[16] Morgan faces the dantian concept of Artworld, a theoretical world that constitutes art through interpretation embodied meanings. Reflecting on alternatives that contribute to a post-art world, considers: “artists have the power to redefine culture in their own terms – this is the crux of the matter in art today.”[17] More through this last path, focusing redefinitions of jewellery, these jewellers will move ahead to find something serious in this hybrid field. They propose experiences loose from any tie. They do not feel remitted to an edge of the art world, they know how and where they want to be.

However, even if with no matrix at all, there are nucleuses that highlight in this global net. For jewellers, galleries, museums and collectors it is possible to work differently, depending on the cultural conditions of the public sphere where they set themselves. As also defended by Morgan, the art world, as a microcosm, reflects the cultural conditions as a whole. “This cultural condition is only tangentially to art, yet it is overwhelmingly connected to the art world.”[18] By this condition, a jeweller is naturally received by museums, such as the Stedelijk, in Amsterdam, or by the Pinakothek der Moderne, in Munich, so much because these follow breaking frontier politics, as also because the public sphere is here likewise more open than in other cities in the world. Consequently, the same can be said about the interest that certain jewellers awake in the market, for example in auctions, such as the Sotheby’s. However, jewellers and Artists – again with upper case just to distinguish – hardly see their work presented at the same fairs. These are mercantile, social and politically separated events. There shall not be news about a jeweller presented at the Documenta from Kassel, as some other Galleries or Artists do not pretend, nor they would be welcomed at the Schmuck in Munich, as a big mercantile and social event, in a vast spectrum, of the jewellery world. Likewise, galleries and collectors from these two fields are barely interested in both at the same time. Nevertheless, because this is a world with another format, above all in Munich and other cities of the Nether Lands, contemporary jewellery starts to awake the attention of recognised critics in the art world, when they search in the frontiers of art for something different. This aspect doesn’t always please the jewellers. In their turn, they also want, and at the same time do not want, to be swallowed by this corporative world, once again, in a balance proper of a mixed world. On the other hand, various jewellers consider that their intentions as jewellers-artists and the other-nature of the jewellery world are little, or nothing, taken in consideration by the approached critics, what could become a reasoned motive for incompatibilities.

The jewellery world is a democracy whose norms are consciously transfigured. Primordially, democracy means equality. On the other hand, if democracies are different among themselves, since the Greek Polis, until the recent democracies invented by the Euro-American Crusades, there have always existed rules for a civic coexistence. In the second case, obviously the instilled rules become anthropologically and socio-culturally incompatible, or delayed, until redefined locally. However, democratic rules are passible of adjustments and progressive readjustments, are passible of reconfigurations that derive from reasoned experiences in the public sphere. In the case of the jewellery world, jewellers and the institutions know the conditions from both worlds and have with them, until now, configured and reconfigured their own rules. Therefore, the same jewellers prefer, naturally, to continue as a central self-critic nucleus, in a world where there is no substantive institutional criticism. They know their own community; they write about it; they argue about it. They dispense fame and fortune, not solely in an attitude of disinterest in favour of the jewellery, but also because they do not pretend to constitute themselves as a few without autonomy, among thousands of artists from the art world, profiled in a world with corporative rules. Criticism and transfigurations of jewellery mostly emerges with their own works, while they are produced and are presented. Jewellers sketch and configure themselves their own courses towards representativeness. Among understandings and divergences, they make protocols with the support institutions, accessing, step-by-step, to remarkable nuclei in the net. That is to say, a relative self-configured pluralism resides in the root of this world, as transformation of a sensible platform in “manifestation of its own autonomy”, as Rancière sustains. This is not a “«consensual» community”, where “everyone agrees, but a community carried through as a community of perception.”[19] The jewellery world is a perceptive platform, where a type of consensus is being defined by common sense that is by individuals that share a type of perception of jewellery. Domination, internal and external to it, remains suspended because it is being questioned in an endless process.

The 1980s mark the moment in which, among cities of Holland, England, Germany the contemporary jewellery emerged and drove the USA, beginning to profile as a net that will very soon include other countries and not much later will turn global. Why has this configuration been maintained? If by before this decade already existed art-jewellery academies, where intentions to reconfigure jewellery where born – standing out the Munich fine art academy, the by then Kunst- und Werkschule Pforzheim, the Gerrit Rietveld academy in Amsterdam and the Royal College in London, to where jewellers from other parts of the world would head to –, I consider that it is due to the education path, that a world with this format and these intentions was born and spread. Jewellers that have studied in these academies have configured a second generation, continuing afterwards, as teachers in these and other academies, to transfigure jewellery and developing the idea of a world that thinks jewellery. From bifurcation to bifurcation, in a process that various jewellers name as endogenous, using the teaching as a double channel – the one from learning, in itself, and the one of passing a testimony of common intentions – we come to what I understand as perceptive platform. In order to disseminate it, contribute the many jewellers who, beyond the academic teaching, make workshops and conferences or participate in symposia in the more diverse places of the globe. This is, therefore, like a discursive and a two-timed learning arena, as much as a democratic platform with reformulated rules. Education as an important Enlightenment principle for the development of consciousness of individuals is enhanced here. The mentioned reformulated rules are quite different to the ones of the art world, and very different to the ones of traditional crafts. In this platform where anti-totalitarian conditions are verified, autonomy and heterogeneity are weaved and difference cohabits with difference.

Also, on the one hand, the world of jewellery makes itself known as a support community of the artist, even if, by presenting certain differences with the 1970s – among others, a gap in time paradoxically associated to a dynamic world, an endogenous nature that, opposite of constituting itself as a negative aspect, as self-reproducer or purist, becomes a mobile one – does not fit itself precisely in any philosophical category. On the other hand, the centre of the problem is configured by the jewellers, as for I am considering them as the dynamic nucleus of this community, by their own works and the dissemination of self-conscious jewellery, in which they implicate themselves. From the creative point of view, they introduce turns, reconfiguring memories from the jewellery as crafts and also from the primordial ornament. This late one, was a way of communicating that, now decoded, makes itself a reflexive art that breaks distances with life and that, not forgetting any antecedent, communicates with irony about all that originates this mixed arena. They do not spread ways of doing; they propagate the same idea, the one of a self-conscious jewellery, as a way of symbolic communication. Thereby, they push philosophy towards the need of a new opening, in order to try to solve this problem. How to try to overcome these barriers, this distance between the theory and the experiences of the jewellers in the jewellery world? How to define paths towards an horizontal critic that explains, from the hermeneutics point of view, the experience proposals and specificity of individual intentions, inscribed in this platform?

As an answer – already sketched in the title of this essay – I propose a task of philosophical horizontal critic, which includes democratic intentions in a triple sense. If democracy means equality, associated to normative and the right to reason about these, in this perspective, [1] on the one hand certain intentions and rules are associated to the criteria of analysis that later I will propose, [2] through which the intentions of each jeweller and the guidelines transfigured by many jewellers in this perceptive and sensitive platform, [3] allow to propose an opening of ways to the public aesthetic experience.

In the first place, this method of analysis shall place ahead the identifications of the works by the jewellers, that is, their own intentions and interpretations. Secondly, philosophical attempts at understanding and interpretation of meanings and metaphors of the works, according to creative and communicative reasons interweaved with sensibility, in order to understand how and why these articulate with functional reasons of jewellery, that is to say, how jewellers question the public order and disturb art itself and, in its amplitude, in order to find another order, proposing it as public aesthetic experience. Thirdly, like in the art field, it has to be taken into account that it will not be because of the dramatically increase of the frequency of art academies – in this case, of jewellery academies – that all will become jewellers-artists. Specially since, with the Bologna Process, reducing changes in the European education will arise. Fourthly, as I described the functioning of this platform, it will not be sufficient to position myself against a radical pluralism, in order to define a way for criticism that explains this world and the jewellers intentions respectively to it, since the fact that the very platform, in a conscious way, has self-relativized it. However, by analysing the poietic praxis, that is to say, the creativity, it becomes important to relativize the pluralism.

In this sense, far from a anything goes as art – a non-relative pluralistic principal soon criticized by DantoI defend that in jewellery there is art, when – as Goodman said before, designating a process[20] – a jeweller transfigures self-consciously jewellery. That is, when he proposes experiences that produce surprise, that make ask questions and reflect about their intentions, about what jewellery can be, about our lives and our world. It will therefore be conditional, as other-experience, like Foucault would say, one that differs by the way in which every jeweller makes us think about this diversity, questioning jewellery itself, as also arts and traditional crafts, finding significant ways of producing sense, keeping the distance from commonplaces and from the design commodities, breaking new distances with life by questioning our superabundant day-to-day and unreasoned attractive placebo-things, that is to say, all things that do not trespass the visible. When jewels trespass this frontier – because they mean more then what there is to be seen – begins the difficult philosophical task of trying to understand in order to unpack the meaning and to fit this jewellery category, with its reasons and the jewellers intentions and sensitivity, articulated with the specificity of its world, in the extension of art.



[1]  Morris, William, “Las artes y la artesanía de hoy”, Op. Cit.: 111.

[1]   FOSTER, Hal, 2003, Design and crime, London, New York, Verso.

[2]    ARGAN, Carlo, 1984, Walter Gropius e a Bauhaus, Lisboa, Presença.

[3]    DANTO, Arthur C., 2002, La transfiguración del lugar común: una filosofía del arte, Barcelona, Buenos Aires y México, Paidós.

[4]    KANT, Immanuel,1876,Crítica del juicio, seguida de las observaciones sobre el asentimiento de lo bello y lo sublime, Traducción del francés por ROVIRA, J. y Moreno, A. G., Madrid, Iravedra. Edición digital, Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 1999. § XLIX De las facultades del espíritu que constituyen el genio. English quotation (KU, § 49), from Jaques, Jèssica y Vilar, Gerard Vilar, 2012, “Feeding thought. Edible art and research cooking”, en Artification and its impact on art, Academy of Finland, Helsinki. (

[5]   Jaques, Jèssica y Vilar, Gerard Vilar, 2012. Op.Cit.

[6]    Vilar, Gerard, 2005, Las razones del arte, Madrid, Machado.

[7]    KANT, Immanuel,1876, Op. Cit. § XI El juicio del gusto no reconoce como principio más que la

forma de la finalidad de un objeto (o de su representación).

[8]  Jaques, Jèssica y Vilar, Gerard Vilar, 2012. Op.Cit

[9]   DANTO, Arthur C., 1964, The «Artworld», en The Journal of Philosophy, volume 61, Issue 19, American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, sixty first annual meeting (October 15): 580.

[10]   Vilar, Gerard, 2002,“La comunicació en l’art contemporani. Nous i vells problemes de l’estètica filosòfica”, en Anàlisi 29, Barcelona, UAB (159-173): 166.

[11]   ARGAN, Carlo, 1984, Op.Cit.

[12] Potter, Norman, 1999, Qué es un Diseñador: objetos. lugares. mensajes. Barcelona: Paidós Estética.

[13]   Foucault, Michel, 1984, “Des espaces autres. Hétérotopies”, (conferencia en el Cercle d’Études

Architecturales, 1967), en Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, n°5, Octubre: 46-49.

[14]   MORGAN, Robert, C., 1998, The end of the art world, New York, Wallworth.

[15]   MORGAN, Robert, C.: XX.

[16]   DANTO, Arthur C., 1964: 584.

[17]   MORGAN, Robert, C.: XI.

[18]   MORGAN, Robert, C.: XIX.

[19]   RANCIÈRE, Jacques, 2005, Sobre políticas estéticas, Barcelona, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Barcelona y Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona: 30.

12    Goodman, Nelson, 2010, “Quand y a-t-il de l’art?” in Manières de faire des mondes, Paris, Gallimard.






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