Munich Jewellery Week’s future challenges

Now the MJW 2018 is over, romantics recall nice memories and post their selfies in the social media, while sceptics think about challenges to be addressed soon, if a sustainable, innovative, independent and extrovert MJW is to be wished – a MJW comprising of appr. 100 venues in metropolitan Munich.

The following account of basic problems, MJW contributors and players (the ones not participating in the Fair/Schmuck and Talente shows and/or the institutional programme of museums) have to resolve, aims at giving food for thought.

Having cureated four MJW shows along with my partner Christoph Ziegler*, having been nominated for the HH award in Schmuck 2017,
and being a Berlin trained visual artist with a background in Journalism and Economics, I see following features playing a role in the future MJWs, namely:

1. The shows and events of MJW have a minimal resonance in the art scene of Munich. This is both sad and strange, especially if we take into account that Munich – along with Hamburg – are the most affluent cities of Germany with a rich cultural tradition and a higly cultivated public as well.

2. Jewellery art is considered by many collectors and art lovers an “art decoratif/ornamental art”, thus having no “fine art” status. The fact that MJW focuses exclusively on jewellery art and lacks – in the majority of the shows – an interdisciplinary approach to theory, context and praxis,
makes it even more difficult to attract local art lovers with purchasing power.

3. Apart from that, most foreign exhibitors do not really try hard to convince local art lovers and collectors that MJW is worth visiting; they do not know how, anyway; they do not care to know either; it is striking that the set up of MJW: Munich – a city hosting amazing treasures – of world heritage rank – is ignored or not even understood by many MJW participants who see the city just as the playground of their (comparatively insignificant – I dare say) shows. The local art scene – its taste, its history, its insider codes – remains a clueless mystery to the majority of international exhibitors who often exhibit inside a bubble addressing fellow artists, curators and academics who are being merged together by the medium they work for/with, namely jewellery. Thus, the radius of the art shown at MJW is tiny; and limited to a small international scene of 500 people who tour all major weeks and fairs worldwide looking for inspiration, young talent, networking and some sort of excitement.

4. The isolation of the jewellery scene is partly wanted or even needed by some jewellery scene players. If the circle extends, they may lose their privileged position as “gurus” and “oppinion makers” of an imaginary jewellery community.

5. Although there are no official facts about turnover in the appr. 100 venues inside the city, one may observe the interactions/transactions during the shows, and conclude that the turnover/sales is very low.
Lack of legal documents to issue receipts and invoices, as well as ignorance of selling strategies appealing to the German public also contribute negatively to the business aspect of MJW.
It is a common secret that artists rarely sell their works.
MJW is more of a networking and promotional event; however, if the public does not visit MJW, then even the promotional aspect will sooner or later become obscolete, if not “really not worth pursuing”.

6. There is no quality standards/prerequisites/quarantee behind MJW.
Everyone can organize and promote an event by publishing it for a fee or even fee-free in one or more freely distributed maps.
What can be perceived as an expression of creative freedom and aesthetical independence has another side on the same coin:
non curated events or shows fulfilling no standard prerequisites often disappoint visitors. MJW runs the risk that disappointed visitors will not return and will not spread “the word of mouth” to prospective visitors.

7. In addition to that, MJW events are rarely backed up and supported with client lists, networks, word of mouth by the local gallery scene. Most events are connected to the gallery they are shown in only through a rental agreement. The same applies to local sponsors or tha lack of them.
These are all indices that MJW does not come through the glass ceiling of the extremely rich cultural life of the Bavarian capital.

8. The global financial crisis and the recent increase in travel cost due to travel sector consolidation, are also reflected in the number of MJW visitors.
The Opening of the Pinakothek der Moderne jewellery show on Friday 9 March 2018 has been attended by half – if not by 1/3 – of the (number of) visitors we witnessed last year.
If MJW does not develop beyond the obvious repetition of map/lectures/partying + concerts/ a limited number of good shows, it will lose ground in the years to come: a bunch of independent shows with no criteria of selection and no thematic categories operating on the edge of fiscal legality plus 3 days of fun is not enough.

As ZLR Betriebsimperium we strongly believe that it is the chance for the city of Munich, the Bavarian cultural agencies and offices, the creative economy sector of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Bavarian business sector and the cosmopolitan free lancers understanding how art and economy may work hand in hand in Germany, to co-shape MJW.

We also believe that if MJW wants to survive instead of declining year after year, it has to envision a concrete strategy for the future.
Answering the following questions is crucial:

Whom does MJW address?
Who sets the standards?
Who outlines the playground for networking?
Who chooses the context and the content for communication strategies?
Who decides what exactly MJW aims at?

We also believe that since there are plenty of Jewellery Weeks and events and shows around the globe, you do not lack the platforms to show your work as an artist; however you often lack the tools of cultural management and of understanding politics, that will enable you to expand your rigid and limited circle to new potential visitors/customers who may be eager to understand, appreciate and finally buy your work.

The tabu of “project mamagement and money making” is one of the main subjects we will address in the Inkubator meeting which will take place in early January 2019 in Athens Greece.:

*Myths 2015 at Weltraum Gallery / Myths 2016 inside a van stationed at Munich central plazas put at our disposal fee-free by the City of Munich which backed us via “Platform” / Initiation 2017 at Florian Trampler Gallery / Initiation 2018 at the same venue.



3 thoughts on “Munich Jewellery Week’s future challenges

  1. Thank you so much for this critic. I’ve been thinking something similar for years and always felt a bit crazy cause apparently no one else noticed it 😀
    Also: Where can I follow any update or open call for the Jewellery Convention Athens? Is there a Facebook page?
    Thanks a lot!


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