Sunday, July 14, 2024

Museums across Asia focus on jewellery

In recent years, jewellery and gem museums have mushroomed across China and the Far East. “For some time now, we have seen private collectors building or furnishing their own museums,” says Cornelie Holzach, director of the Pforzheim Jewellery Museum in Germany. “The fact that jewellery, and jewellery museums in particular, are experiencing such a boom in Asia is an excellent development and exciting to see.”

Guangdong province, China’s economic powerhouse, is home to the Shenzhen Jewellery Museum. Its newest private art institution, the Chen Treasure Culture Art Museum, specialises in jadeite and carving.

The museum opened on 27 September in Pingzhou, Foshan City, one of the four most influential jade centres in China, known for its specialisation in raw materials, finished products, wholesale and retail. It was founded by Pan Susen and Hu Lihua, both of whom have decades of experience in the jade industry.

“The charm of jade is fully displayed here, giving the audience a three-dimensional visual experience and a more comprehensive understanding of jade culture,” explains Lihong Huang, the museum’s executive director. “We hope to become a platform that brings artists and institutions together to build a new cultural landmark so that more people can understand jade culture.”

In recent years, Steve Cherng, a Singaporean-Taiwanese visual merchandiser and art director specialising in jewellery, has moved from store design to exhibitions. His latest project is the inaugural exhibition at Chen Treasure. “China has continuously strengthened its jewellery design and encouraged the establishment of many jewellery art galleries and cultural centres,” he says.

About 90 miles away, the Shenzhen Jewellery Museum, which opened in 2019, is located in the bustling Shuibei jewellery district, which is home to more than 2,000 jewellery companies. The museum features five permanent exhibition areas that showcase traditional Chinese craftsmanship, such as filigree inlay and gold bead granulation, through to contemporary design. One of these permanent exhibitions, Road of Shenzhen, chronicles 40 years of Shenzhen’s jewellery industry; another showcases the work of famous brands from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.

The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions. The latest, Olivine Love – Peridot’s Life Journey, in collaboration with Fuli Gemstones, closes on Sunday. After that, Diva! Italian Glamour in Fashion Jewellery, which has toured the world, will open on November 1.

“In the future, the Shenzhen Jewellery Museum will integrate popular science, education, art exchange and other museum functions, [and] collect and store famous domestic and foreign jewellery brands,” says Wang Zhen, the museum’s director. “The three-year epidemic has had a severe impact on all sectors of the world, but now there is a growing desire to ‘get out there’.”

K11 Musea, located at Victoria Docks in Hong Kong, not far from Shenzhen, is where VanCleef & Arpels opened L’École School of Jewellery Arts, its first Asia-Pacific branch, in 2019.

A second Asia-Pacific campus opened this week in Shanghai. Although more of a school than a museum, the Hong Kong site has nearly 1,900 square metres dedicated to exhibitions; its latest show, Daniel Brush, an Edifying Journey: Gold, Aluminium, Steel, has just closed.

“With each exhibition and programme, L’École strives to provide meaningful learning experiences for the general public, and bringing this to Hong Kong has been an amazing journey,” says Olivier Segura, Managing Director of L’École Asia Pacific. He notes that the team worked closely with a local collector in Hong Kong to assemble more than 50 different artefacts that will be featured in the next exhibition, which begins in mid-November. “It follows the Through the Eyes of a Connoisseur series, which is dedicated to the nuances of taste and the art of collecting,” he says.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, other museums founded by private collectors are promoting the local industry. Take the Gem and Jewellery Museum in Bangkok, run by the Gem and Jewellery Institute of Thailand (GIT). The museum has been closed since July for renovations and is due to reopen in early November. Established in 2002, it moved to a new location in the heart of Bangkok’s gem trading district in 2011.

As well as an extensive gem and jewellery library of books, journals and research papers, it also focuses on Thai jewellery, including Lanna-style silver, Sukhothai gold ornaments and nielloware.

“As part of the renovation, a variety of interactive media have been introduced to enhance the appeal of the exhibitions,” says Sumed Prasongpongchai, director of GIT.

“These interactive elements aim to engage visitors on a deeper level, making the learning experience both informative and entertaining.” These include what he describes as “engaging games” that allow visitors to explore the various processes involved in the gem industry, such as mining and cutting.

When the World Jewellery Museum in Seoul, South Korea, was founded in 2004 as a private museum by Lee Kang-Won, a jewellery collector and the wife of a diplomat, it was the first museum in Asia dedicated to jewellery.

Exhibits from around the world include pre-Columbian gold jewellery, while the museum recently accepted a donation of contemporary Canadian jewellery, including works by Maryon Kantaroff, EB Cox and Gabriel Lucas, which now reside in its permanent collection.

Today, the collection totals 2,800 pieces, displayed in nine galleries on three floors. Permanent exhibitions include Korean jewellery artists such as Kim Seunghee and Yun Sang-hee, as well as traditional Korean jewellery such as norigae pendants.

The latest temporary exhibition, entitled Love, runs until 3 November 2024 and features 50 rings from the museum’s collection. Dating from the 1880s to the 1980s, they represent love and devotion and range from traditional Korean wedding rings to Victorian mourning rings.

“The museum is in the process of digitising its collection and adding a digital layer to the existing exhibitions to create a more interactive relationship with the collection,” says co-director Elaine Kim, adding that with 70 per cent of its visitors coming from overseas, the museum hopes to create opportunities for collaborations with museums around the world in the future to expand its reach even further.

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