During a recent visit to Patina Gallery in Sante Fe, I noticed that they did not include labels with the artists' names identifying the makers of the jewelry on display. I asked Ivan Barnett (the gallery owner) about this approach. The response was that labels created visual clutter. They wanted the visual impact of the work on display to be about the artistic impression of both the display and the objects themselves.
I must admit that their gallery does look very attractive. Each piece of jewelry in a case or on the wall creates a positive impression. The jewelry on display does not feel crowded. I give them high marks on visual impact unequivocally.
In contrast, another gallery exhibiting jewelry placed labels everywhere with all kinds of information, e.g. names, materials, dimensions, and prices -- and the overall appearance did look jumbled to horrendous with visual clutter in the displays or on the walls.
Labels or not labels is not a new debate, but I think a few issues come to the fore.
1) Should artist-made jewelry have a label with the artist name in an exhibition or gallery?
2 What is the solution to an attractive label?
3) As a jewelry artist, would you express your opinion to the gallery or exhibition that displays your work?
4) What is the value of discussing this issue?
Let's look at the first question:
Should artist-made jewelry have a label with the artist's name?
I started to think about it like this. ...
Can you imagine going to a museum or gallery for other media and not seeing the artists' names with the artwork on display? I can not recall ever seeing an exception.
How about at an airport showing public art? Don't they always include the artist's name? Of course they do. Usually with just a couple of seconds to look around, there is always a placard or label.
Did you ever go to a ceramics, glass or sculpture show and not see the artist's name near the artwork on display? Never.
Is there any other art form in which the artist's name is considered optional? At a minimum, artwork of any medium and the maker are identified with a label. It establishes credibility for both the exhibition and the artists in the show.
Further irony is that there are even brand name commercial jewelry brands commanding higher prices and better sales because they are associated with an individual's name. Examples like Paloma Picasso or David Yurman sell their boring jewelry with a name attached.
However. . .
The visual and aesthetic impact of an exhibition must be part of the equation. Seeing creative, innovative expression can be a magnificent engaging experience for the buyers and community. Any opportunity to elevate a gallery visit into a sense of wonder should be a goal for everyone. Intrusive labels or poorly placed placards may interfere with that experience.
Let's compare some examples side by side of jewelry on display, with and without labels, before we consider the professional and practical issues.
It is clear that the artwork displays best when no distractions interfere with the visual experience.
But it is also essential that the artwork should not be displayed anonymously.
So, question two...
What is the solution to an attractive label? How can the artist's name be clearly associated with the artist-made jewelry on display?
How can this be done effectively without visual pollution of labels and the cluttered effect?
Here are some ideas:
- Have one label discretely near but not in or on the jewelry. Ideally the label will be attractive (more attractive than a white piece of printer paper).
- Keep the label below the display so that it can be found if desired but does not obstruct or is not included in the field of vision of the artwork.
- Provide a printed handout or gallery guide with small images of the jewelry.
- Use a small number in the display that corresponds to either a label to the side or the printed handout.
Can any readers of this post offer other suggestion or ideas?
What are your solutions or ideas?
The third issue is....
As a jewelry artist, should you express your opinion to the gallery or exhibition that displays your work?
Did you ever ask the gallery that shows your work if they display your name? Do you think that the artist maker has a voice in this issue?
Question four is...
What is the value of discussing this issue? The reason for this discussion is that it is time that artists and makers take responsibility and advocate for their work and how their work is displayed. Surely, galleries and exhibitions are opportunities, but makers of artist-made jewelry should not simply remain quiet and anonymous.
What is your position? Do you have any power?
Next post: Should labels have any information other than the artist's name? How much information is TMI?
Necklace by Helen Shirk
Steel with enamel
(Center) Necklace and jewelry by Mike and Maaike - "Stolen Jewels" Digital printing on leather
(Front Center) Marjorie Simon - Enamel rings
(Left edge) Rebecca Laskin - Bracelets dyed 3-d printing
(Right edge) Rachelle Thiewes - Painted bracelets
Necklace and cuffs by Arlene Fisch Crochet Wire
This post was updated on December 13th, 2021.