Thirteen Francophone jewellery artists are currently featured in the exhibition “Bijoux contemporains : Francophone Artists Reimagine Adornment”, which opened on October 31st at the Ross Art Museum in Delaware, Ohio. Among the artists, seven are from Quebec, and several are graduates of the École de joaillerie de Montréal. Invited to curate the exhibition, gallery owner Noel Guyomarc’h shares some details of this major project, which constitutes an incredible showcase for artists from both here and French-speaking Europe.
How did this curatorial opportunity for an exhibition of French-speaking jewellery designers in an American museum come about?
The Ross Art Museum’s Director, Erin Fletcher, was visiting Montreal in 2017. She came into the gallery by chance, looking for a gift. Very quickly, she noticed the artistic value of the jewellery on display. We started talking about jewellery, the artists and the gallery’s activities. Erin took the time to read the texts affixed to the wall, texts received by leading figures in the world of contemporary art and craft on the occasion of the gallery’s 20th anniversary. The idea of proposing that I organize an exhibition seemed obvious to her.
What is the museum’s mission?
This museum is attached to Ohio Wesleyan University. French courses are offered, as well as jewellery courses as part of the Fine Arts Studio program. The idea of reconciling the French language and the notion of jewellery in one exhibition has thus taken shape. Over the past year, we have oriented our selection around Francophone jewellery artists. Through a collaboration between French professor Mary Anne Lewis Cusato, jewellery professor Cynthia Cetlin and the museum director, the exhibition project was further enriched with French, jewellery and art history students, who had to conduct research on each guest artist. A really exciting project for the gallery, the museum and the university!
How did the choice of artists for the exhibition come about?
Above all, I wanted to present the artists I work with, while promoting an aesthetic, plastic and conceptual diversity. My choices included Aurélie Guillaume, Gabrielle Desmarais, Marie-Ève G. Castonguay, Catherine Granche, Magali Thibault Gobeil, Catherine Sheedy and Anne-Sophie Vallée for Quebec, Marianne Anselin, Ambroise Degenève and Patricia Lemaire for France, and Sophie Hanagarth for Switzerland. I then invited Claude Schmitz, from Luxembourg, who had participated in an exhibition at the gallery in 2012. And finally, I invited Nelly Van Oost from Belgium, who I met during a visit to Munich Jewelry Week in 2015. Erin, Mary Anne and Cynthia were very excited about the selection. The artists’ different approaches will feed into the students’ research.
How would you define Francophone jewellery?
I do not perceive Francophone jewellery as distinct from what is done elsewhere. In this case, it is rather a theme chosen by myself and the museum director. Within my selection, however, there are very different types of jewellery, and there is a reflection on jewellery that takes place within the framework of training, whether at a college or university.
Half of the selected artists are from Quebec. How do you perceive our local creators in relation to the international scene?
The distinction I notice does not come from the work itself, but rather from the way of looking at jewellery in general. This distinction stems from the very recent history of artistic jewellery in Quebec. There are very few references, so it is very different from Europe, for instance, where many creators have received their education at the university level. Jewellery is more intellectualized in Europe, whereas here everything is more spontaneous, more organic. But all these practices, both in Quebec and in Europe, are based on a need to see jewellery differently.
You have an increasingly strong presence on the international scene and this is becoming an important showcase for Quebec creators. Do you have an international development plan?
I don’t have a development plan per se. My development activities are divided into three components: the exhibitions I organize here with local and international creators, jewellery events such as Schmuck in Munich, and finally, my participation in art fairs.
In the spring of 2019, I took part in Art Palm Beach, then in the SNAG Conference, and this fall I will be attending SOFA Chicago and New York City Jewelry Week. I was also invited to exhibit at the Foire d’art contemporain de St-Lambert. However, I do refuse some invitations, whenever I am not convinced that they are relevant, or for financial reasons.
Each year, I try to plan participations in art fairs, in order to meet collectors, museum curators or exhibition curators, but also with the aim to sell the artists’ creations and to provide them with an international showcase. There are always benefits for artists – again this week, many of them received an invitation to Bijoux, a fundraising event for the Norton Museum in Palm Beach! As for my presence at certain events, such as Schmuck or SNAG, I do so mainly for visibility, and to maintain important contacts.
But every year, there are surprises!
Images 1 to 5 – Photo credit: Gabrielle Desmarais
1. Exhibition view
2. Exhibition view, jewellery by Anne-Sophie Vallée and Magali Thibault Gobeil
3. Exhibition view, jewellery by Catherine Granche
Images 4 to 8 – Photo credit: Anthony McLean
4. Nelly Van Oost
5. Marie-Eve G. Castonguay
6. Catherine Granche
7. Aurélie Guillaume
8. Gabrielle Desmarais
On the Ross Art Museum website:
Exhibition “Bijoux Contemporains: Francophone Artists Reimagine Adornment”