Munchin on Munchen

I arrived in Munich on the 15th of March around 9.30am. I spent the morning getting acquainted with the shower and much welcomed space and wardrobes in my hotel room. It was absolute bliss to have a space that would be only mine for the next week, where I was free to leave clothes on the floor and stay up as long as I liked without inhibiting others lives. In the afternoon I decided to get my bearings of the city. I decided trying to find a post office (surprisingly, not always an easy task in Europe) would be a good way to figure it out. Four hours later I returned with postcards sent and a bag of new clothes and a general sense of the layout of the city. The NZ crew met in the lobby of our hotel, The Blauer Bock- As a slight aside, if you ever travel to Munich for the Jewellery pilgrimage week, I would highly, highly, recommend staying at this fine establishment. Not only is it very centrally located, but it is also the main hotel that exhibitors, jewellers, gallery owners, and dealers stay at. Residing here for the week gave us all a huge advantage in the networking front. We were meeting people over breakfast that we might not have had the opportunity had we not been staying there. Anyway, we then ventured out for our first dinner as a group, joined by Helen Britton. We got better acquainted and had our first experience of a Bavarian beer hall and the complete menu of meat- not much choice for vegetarians here!

The next morning we met for breakfast. There was a real sense of excitement and nervousness building as today was the first day of Handwerksmesse being open. We headed out on the train to the Fair halls. When we got inside the hall, it felt like one of those prizes you win where they ask you to grab as much stuff from the aisles as you can in a certain amount of time. There was a huge want to run straight to the back of the hall, which is where Talente was situated, to see your work and the set-up. However, on the way you’re being distracted by the variety of inventions, processes, works, pieces and installations. We swiftly made our way on restrained legs to the back and went hunting for our work. My initial excitement was stifled for a second upon recognition that they only used two of my pieces instead of the four that were sent over. After conversation I was told it is quite common for them to not use all pieces as there is limited space and a need for cohesion and digestion in display. My work was also displayed on glass which I was unfamiliar with and had shadows hanging over my work from the pieces above which took a bit of getting used to. I suppose I had trouble with the limited group of my pieces because they came from a body of work consisting of 25 pieces, which was reduced to 8 for application, then 4 accepted  and finally two. When you make the work knowing that they all speak to each other, to find the conversation limited to say, two words instead of 25, you are speaking very publicly with what feels like a limited vocabulary. I really had to look at the work as an outsider instead of myself. Once I did this I realised it wasn’t too bad , my work spoke for itself and I should really just enjoy the privilege of having my work displayed there! I then proceeded to check out the NZ contingent’s work. What a talented lot I was lucky enough to be in the company of. Very proud! I spent the next three hours checking out Talente and Schmuck. My favourites in Talente were Li-Chu Wu, Rosa Nogues, Timothy McMahon, Veera Metso, Jasmin Matzakow, Hanna Lundborg, Nadine Kuffner, Eleanor Bolton,  Robert Hoffmann, Dik Scheepers, Amba Molly, Laura Stracke, Joscha Brose and of course, Anzac Tasker, Rachel Bell, Corrina Hoseason and Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova, the beautful and talented Kiwi’s I travelled with.  In all honesty I wasn’t as wowed by the Schmuck installation as I thought I would be. I felt, especially in comparison, that Talente was more innovative and exciting. However, some of my favourites were Jasmin Winter, Jennifer Trask, Stefano Marchetti, Mia Maljojoki, Robert Baines, Lisa Walker, Sophie Hanagarth, Attai Chen, Jorge Castanon (also staying at our hotel and one of the most delicious people I met- fondled his jewellery over breakfast, absolutely breathtaking) and Peter Bauhuis. The Manfred Bischoff series was beautiful to see. He had a large cabinet to himself with about a dozen pieces all made from gold with corresponding drawings. The galleries that had travelled to the fair included Gallery Ra, Platina and Gallery Marzee. My favourite display would have to of been Platinas’. The high wall was covered with a collaboration installation/work made entirely from a single piano. There would have been hundreds of pieces and it was stunning (although they could only fit roughly half of the piano pieces on the wall)

Sorry, a bit of background about Handwerkskammer, The German chambers of crafts council. They organise the annual fair at the Handwerksmesse, what used to be the old Munich airport. Consisting of 6 refurbished airport hangers, you could find anything from how to make sausages, to crash test cars, to panelbeating tutorials. It is essentially a hand-craft fair. I will be completely honest and say in the three or four visits I made out to the Messe, I didn’t even make it out of our hall. If I was to divulge even more information, for the first two visits I didn’t even make it out of the back third of our hall that included Talente, Schmuck, Exemplar (artists working inside the space, such as Karl Fritsch) and some textile artists. To take it all in is impossible. I imagine if you were just a punter it would still be hard work. After three or four hours we were all pretty visually saturated with enough goodies to take home and file away in our sleep.  We headed back to our hotel for a wee break before the next outing.

We met in the lobby and all ventured off to our first exhibition opening of the week, ‘Hautnah’. Eunmi Chun and Akiko Kurihara were students of Otto Kunzli at The Munich Academy. It was interesting to see the layout choices and the work itself. Although Akiko’s works were very clever and witty, my favourite works were the animals made by Eunmi Chun from hair, goldleaf, bowel and seeds.  After that, off to another dinner and prep for the next day.

The following day was full of exhibition openings. I made it to three before lunchtime. My favourite of the three would have to be “LOOK” as curated by Ruudt Peters. (Images here You walked into the space only to find it was all black lit which was an interesting concept to reckon with. On one hand it was really unique and gave a new perspective to the work as it was all on a central white table, but on the other hand it was hard to see the detail of the pieces. People were using cellphones to illuminate the work. I had this same issue with at my exhibition  last year with Julia Middleton,  Off/On. We had our work on red plinths, illuminated internally with L.E.D lights. This allowed for a bit of lighting but as the night grew darker, this wasn’t enough to show detail of the work.(The exhibition was held at Foxglove bar on a huge white bookcase) I will however be using this to my advantage for my next exhibition.

After the morning of exhibitions and some very nice cheesecake with Alan Preston, we made our way to The Munich Academy of the Arts. Here we were shown around by Jiro, Otto Kunzli’s assistant and also a jeweller exhibiting during the week. What a grandiose building the academy is. Very interesting to see the workspaces and get a general feel for the day-to-day goings-on. The workspaces range from 4-8 people to a room. Casting, forging etc have their own rooms. To be honest, I had heard about the Academy and held all sorts of false notions about it, such as, you had to study for 6 years. The party we went to on the Friday night, organised annually by the jewellery students of The Academy (fucking great party!), gave me the opportunity to speak to Otto and clear up a few of these soon-to-be misunderstandings. Here goes: minimum study is three years, which equates to diploma level, any study over that does not gain you extra qualifications. You have access to all other disciplines workshops and tutors, such as ceramics, printmaking, sculpture and performance. It costs $1600ish NZ a year to study (400 Euro a semester).  They have weekly round table discussions, done in english but mostly German. I feel myself being swayed…

I know I’m missing out a few key events in the middle here but it generally consisted of exhibition openings, loads of walking, fine food and lots of Weisbeer (beer doesn’t taste the same since I’ve been back). On the Thursday night was a meet and greet kind of night at the Messe (Messe is what the fair halls are called). Mostly it was just talking to people and spying on people looking at your work.

Friday morning we all headed off to Helen Brittons catalogue launch, ‘Jewellery Life’. This went on for a few hours and was a great opportunity to meet interesting people and see the work on show at the gallery. On the Friday night I worked at Karl Fritsch, Gerd Rothmann and Robert Baines’ exhibition opening, “Returning to the jewel is a return to exile” at the Residenz.  This is not the first time the trio have shown together at The Residenz. For some background, check out this article by the wonderful Vivian Atkinson . The work was again featured on a blue disc shaped table circling a centred marble column. Although their work is very different in aesthetic, each jeweller had a third of the disc for their work, allowing for easy distinction, digestion and viewing of the pieces. Gerd made me wear one of his necklaces and a ring for the duration of the opening, to which I happily obliged. He believes that jewellery should be seen on the body, demand a presence and at the end of the day is the jewellers’ relationship with the wearer that defines it. His work is wonderfully playful but also very skillfully made and he is one in the category of few jewellers who do not deny the hand of the maker, or at least the reminder of the human connection (as seen with use of finger prints). He seems to be adding more and more colour to his work of late which is refreshing and eye-catching.

Robert Baines’ work was again refreshing and a new tangent for him. There was a very cheeky and sneaky undertone to his work which I can’t disclose at this time as it might ruin the point. Baines has branched out from his known application of red and gold to a flourishing colour pallet in his work. He is exploring deeper away from the filigree style work though still keeping with the constructionist style that he does so well. Hi brooches were all structures, either square or round, that were reminiscent of fields or flower shoots, and amongst these were mostly giraffes and a few with kangaroos. They were very weighty pieces but  intriguing when worn and also made the wearer want to constantly look down at them.

Karl’s work was typical in his amount of it. There were more rings than we could keep an eye on and a constant stream of people wanting to try them on. What seems to me like a freedom in my work I could never attain, Karl manages to pull off with ease. This is not however, to be thought of as free of requiring knowledge of direction and philosophy. Aside from the rings, Karl had some pieces that I had never seen before. Giant pendants made of clay that resembled door knockers and antiquated vessels with legs newly attached. I had my most enjoyment out of people trying to make sense of these works in a jewellery context.

After the ‘exclusive’ opening finished, I had the pleasure of Karl being my exhibition tour guide for the next few hours. We dashed along to Rebellen der Liebe, an exhibition of work by Alexander Blank, Stefan Heuser, Christian Hoedl and Jiro Kamata- all students of Otto Kunzli. The work of all four was extremely varying in style and the way it was curated and installed was interesting and as far as I know, unique. It was not your standard four white walls gallery set-up. As you walked in there was a cabineted little bench with a selection of work as well as a few pieces in the corner on the wall. Behind this was a corridor that lead to the store-room. They had lined this with reflective goldish insulation material. I was encouraged to run as fast as I could down the corridor to experience the ripple and rush. It was pretty cool. At the end of this was a single cabinet with about three pieces in it. I enjoyed the corridor more to be honest. The final surprise was another area which was the largest room housing a half-pipe with jewellery hung on the side of it. It was interesting as you had to walk down the middle but couldn’t get too close to the work because of the gradient of the pipe. Interesting new take on curation and installation but really hard to restrain myself from running all over it.

After this we hoofed it down on the fantastic underground system to Förderpreis der Landeshauptstadt München 2011, a bi-annual exhibition and awards ceremony for Munich based designers. As said by Karl,this is an annual real munich incest event ,all the munich artists, designers , architects, photographers probably go through that at a certain stage of their career”. Winners here: I quickly had a look around at all that was there to offer, met a few more people then made off for the next destination, Pinakothek der Moderne.

On the way to Pinakothek der Moderne we discussed the merits of the rumour about micro-chipping and DNA testing dogs in Munich so if they shit on the street, the resulting defecation can be traced back to the owner who didn’t pick it up, resulting in a fine. We wondered what kind of uniform the shit officer would have to wear and if he/she would be higher or lower on the social dislike scale in comparison to parking wardens… The Pinakothek was packed with all the jewellery crowd that had besieged Munich for the week. I was beginning to recognise quite a few faces by the end of it. The occasion at the Pinakothek was the opening of Peter Skubics exhibition, ‘Radical’. By this stage however, I was feeling quite tired, hungry and had had a few drinks. I decided no to view it at this time, especially knowing I would be distracted on the way. I instead eventually made moves back to the hotel to meet with Anzac Tasker and Alan Preston, my two chapperones to the Academy party that was going on that night. All I will say is that the night was long, the Weisbeer was perfect, Alan was much-loved by the French students and we all had a rollicking good night.

Saturday 19th March. Half way through the week and just getting started. We headed out to the Messe again as Saturday is the prizegiving day. Sadly none of us Nz’ers were recipients of awards this year, however all the winners were well deserving. After lots of clapping we made off to our next destination which was the annual dinner for all involved at the Handwerksmesse. This involves all exhibiting jewellers in town, gallery owners and collectors, visiting students and anyone else that has affiliations. So you can understand how, when we did a rough count at the 13th Century beer hall where it housed, that we came up with 1000 people. Imagine the networking that went on that night! I experienced drinking a beer as big as my head and met people from all around the world. Biggest bonus of the night would have to be meeting and having a conversation with Manfred Bischoff and getting commissioned to make a brooch for a Dutch collector. If you’re ever in Munich for the week, be sure to muscle your way in there with your best made jewels on and talk the night away. On Monday we all went back to the Messe to take photo’s and absorb a bit more than we had been able to. It was also my birthday! What a fantastic place Munich was to spend my25th birthday thanks to the NZ crew.

I am now at four pages long and I still have three days left in Munich. I’m sure some of you will be losing interest so will keep it simple as possible.  The next major event for me, and the last one I will talk about was spending a few hours at The Pinakothek der Moderne.  If you ever go, make sure you have light bags and lots of cash in your wallet as they have the best bookstore ever and they’re extremely cheap. I fortuitously bumped into Alan at the ticket office and we started at Peter Skubics retrospective exhibition on the top floor. His installation would have to be one of my favourites I’ve seen. It was made up of the work displayed on various wooden tables with glass cases atop, tied down with a single black strop over each. A real mix between the comfort of the kitchen table and the inability to touch the work because of the glass casings and the strength of the strops. I wasn’t  drawn to every piece as a whole but they all had elements to them that I not only liked but have also drawn inspiration from.

It was also interesting to see his leap from his architectural type coloured/mirrored brooches into large-scale sculpture replicas. From here I ventured around the rest of the Museum. I had many monumental experiences of seeing artists work in the flesh that I had only ever seen in books. I saw my first Picasso’s and Dali’s, Joseph Bueys had a massive collection of his work on show, saw some of Dan Flavins’ glowing work. By now uber excited and by myself so must have looked like a crazy person with a tic trying to hold it all together. And there’s more! Downstairs they have this massive collection of design over time. Everything from electronics to automobiles to furniture. Have enough inspiration for a house! Now it gets really juicy. Below all of this, deep in the earth of the Pinakothek is The Danner Rotunda. Here is housed one of the worlds best collection of contemporary jeweller. The current curator for the works is Karl Fritsch. His way of display is at once striking and easy to digest. He has purposefully selected works that give a wide scope of jewellery while also being at the top of its game. Karl has not added names directly with the work so you’re taking the work only on its merit. This bought an overwhelming sense of calm over me when viewing the collection. Thankfully it wasn’t until after I’d seen it all that I saw the A6 pull out done in Karls typical hand drawing associating pieces with artists. There was one cabinet with only bracelets all in a row. Even though they were all by various artists using various materials it was delicious to ponder over. Other cabinets remind me of my sister who used to set up her myriad of porcelain and glass animals as if they were having a conversation this was the biggest feeling I got from the groupings. They were all from different backgrounds but were getting on like a house on fire. It was beautiful to look at.

What a fine way to end the week that was Munchen. I am now back home and feverishly searching for a new studio to get making. Forgive me for any errors I have made and feel free to correct me anyone that recalls better than myself.  I’ve been having trouble keeping normal conversation and think it’s about time to start speaking without words again. Lebewohl!



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