The NGV store’s new space for contemporary jewellery is less about precious stones in classic settings and more about wearable art.
Think a necklace made from nylon thread, or a map of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay made of 100 individual gold-plated brooches (each for sale).
“We want to make contemporary jewellery accessible,” says Simone LeAmon, the NGV’s curator of contemporary design and architecture. The store is selling jewellery made through exclusive commissions, collaborations and partnerships with galleries such as Melbourne-based Pieces of Eight.
“We intentionally use the terms ‘contemporary jewellery’ … because it's a departure from convention or tradition where you prioritise classic setting and gems and precious jewels," LeAmon explains.
The concept space, which was 10 months in the making, has two purposes. It’s a retail space and a mentoring initiative for emerging contemporary jewellers – some of whom the NGV helped with their first commercial range for the store.
“We also picked out lots of practitioners from around the country who don’t presently sell in Melbourne,” LeAmon says. “One example is Christel van der Laan. She has exhibited internationally, yet there is nowhere in Melbourne to see, let alone buy, her work.”
The store’s first major collaboration is a limited-edition range by designer Mary Featherston and jeweller Blanche Tilden. Only six necklaces, three pendants and five pairs of earrings were made for the collection, though LeAmon says a number of them have already sold.
Each piece is made from antique gold and glass elements, from Australian furniture designer Grant Featherston’s jewellery archive; in the 1940s Featherson made and sold his own jewellery to fund his furniture designs.
The new space will also feature pieces from international galleries, which will change twice yearly. First up is Amsterdam’s Galerie Ra, which pioneered contemporary jewellery in the 1970s. Forty years later it is still famous for encouraging its artists to explore the limits of jewellery making. The Galerie Ra section features experimental works by European jewellery designers Sylvia Blickman, Paul Derrez and Georg Dobler.
The NGV Design Store at the NGV International is open 10am–5pm Monday to Sunday.