For centuries the procedure was the same: somebody summoned the goldsmith and commissioned a piece of jewellery. It never was just anybody: only people with a lot of power and possessions were in such a position. So the process of producing the piece wasn’t going to be a carefree undertaking: the conditions of the assignment had to be met and restrictions dictated by social conventions to be taken into account. The maker was likely to face some headwind.
Ted Noten can appreciate a bit of headwind. After having frequently challenged the limits of his profession, he decided that this time he wanted to return to the core of his craft: having his clients right in front of him, together with all their wishes and conditions.
So is this back to square one? No, not quite, for the position of artists nowadays is fundamentally different from that of the past. Today the emphasis is on their personal renown, no longer on the ability to handle the expected amounts of diamonds or gold. The aim of the patrons is no longer to be able to adorn themselves to the maximum effect, but to acquire a ‘genuine Noten’.
So this is conceptual jewellery; with Noten the idea is the guiding principle. The presentation will be in the same vein: the gallery will only display white sheets of paper carrying descriptions like ‘brooch’ or ‘necklace’, together with a price; they will be supplemented by play rules about things like the amount of meetings between customer and artist and the use of precious materials.
Jewellery has the remarkable capacity to go beyond the mere intellectual. It will always titillate the eye and hand as well: the craftsmanship of the execution and the play of shapes and textures are likely to be as important as the ‘concept’. It is there where contemporary jewellery’s principal quality lies, not in the use of gold, silver or glittering gems.
You and Me was exhibited at Gallery Rob Koudijs, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.