‘The ART JEWELLERY Bank’ exhibition is the seed of an idea by artist Bridget Kennedy, that questions notion of why jewellery, when collected, is often never worn, hidden away from the public eye, as well as highlighting the lack of presence of art jewellery (often studied as a discipline in art schools alongside sculpture, painting and other more traditional art forms) in the collections of Art Banks around the world.
For this exhibition, a number of jewellery artists were invited to submit a statement piece of their own work which will be made available for lease by the broader community, enabling these wearable artworks to be made more accessible.
The artists will also be making a small collection of related work available for sale.
The idea of building an art collection and making it available for rent is not new.
It happens in both the private and public sector. South Africa and Canada are two Government entities, apart from our own, that have created Art Banks that rent out Art to the public. The Australian federally supported program, Art Bank was established in 1980 as a federal government support program, with the aim to provide direct support to Australian contemporary artists through the acquisition of their work and to promote the value of Australian contemporary art to the broader public. Artbank funds its leasing of artworks from its collection. This fabulous initiative allows contemporary visual art to be accessible operations through the to the broader community in ways that more traditional collections cannot.
However, the inclusion of contemporary art jewellery is less common. The Danish Arts Foundation, which began collecting jewellery in 1978, is one exception to this and has now collected more than 300 pieces of jewellery in their ‘jewellery library’ that can be borrowed when attending a public event such as a concert, exhibition opening, film production, or any other opportunity where the work can gain exposure to the public.
The American based Art Jewelry Forum, a non-profit international organization founded in 1997 also advocates for the field of contemporary art jewellery and actively encourages the collection of art jewellery through visual promotion of work, providing a platform for discourse around collecting this art form.
The exhibition also speaks to the share economy and participatory/social art, an area Kennedy often explores in her practice. As she explains,
“the people who loan out the jewellery will be invited to take a selfie of themselves wearing the work and provide a few notes of their experience. This will then be documented, building up a history of the work and its public interactions”.
She acknowledges the model for this exhibition is a little different to a traditional art bank in that the artists will be lending work for the show, rather than it being part of a collection. However, her vision is that this seed of an idea might grow into something bigger, her vision of an Art Bank, or Library collection of Australian Art Jewellery (developed through public funding, with acquisitions either donated to the collection, or purchases funded through leasing of art jewellery) that is able to see the light of the day on the bodies of people who value experiences over their wardrobes and delight in the opportunity to promote Australian wearable art.