Business or Bubble? The million dollar question jewellers need to answer.

Picture: Greta seen through the layers of Virtual Exhibition. Credit: Christoph Ziegler
zoomThe changes in social behavior and values covid-19 initiated will not leave the contemporary jewellery scene unaffected. Some artists believe virtual exhibitions is the answer to the crisis. I think virtual exhibitions, compared to non-virtual ones, feel like watching The Swan Lake on Ice on video instead of The Swan Lake performed by Bolshoi Ballet Live; the former is nice, though a little bit tacky for my taste, but it is not THE REAL THING.
Exclusive fashion and contemporary jewellery will find it difficult to satisfy customers online. I do not believe any sane buyer or collector will pay 4-digit-and-more-prices for works he/she has never seen before nor knows how they fit his/her body; just based on a photo or video impression. An important communication tool, the possibilities of virtual exhibiting should not be overvalued. Artists should also beware of “easy technology”; badly made DIY websites prove that employing a specialist for web applications and communication, may save your brand.
My guess is that we are heading to a more “elitary” approach of presentating jewellery; it is impossible, under covid-19 pandemia conditions and measures, to welcome hundreds of visitors like, for example, we used to do during past Munich schmuck-weeks ; especially, if visitors are not necessarily buyers.
The following questions arise:
Why should an artist or gallerist risk her/his own health if right from the beginning, there is no prospect of sales? Inevitably, professionals will “screen” their visitors and try to find the “golden cut” of saving time and energy and still encouraging people to visit their shows. Many art galleries follow this practice for years; and they are not necessarily wrong or “mean” or “snobbish” for not allowing everybody to enter their private space. They are businesses appreciating the importance of saving time and energy – and not educational or public art institutions.
Realizing that art business is also about making money for the ones involved, leads us to the next question:
Do “weeks” and (jewellery) “events” attract the “right people”? “A lot of visitors” does not equal “a lot of buyers”. “A lot of fellow designers” does not equal “good networking”. “A lot of advertisement in the jewellery press does not equal “a VIP has noticed”.
“What is your record of generating sales, of enhancing business networking, of creating career opportunities, of leaving  a digital trace for your participants, of attracting the (real) press?”, is a legitimate question artists should ask event organizers.
Do events facilitate artists to achieve financial independence, boost reputation, trigger career opportunities or do they just “recycle” artists inside a “closed circuit” ? Do they sell artists knowledge and expertise or just “hot air”?
I believe some jewellery events are bubbles that are about to explode.
A different context for presenting and promoting jewellery might be a viable solution; a context beyond the ornamental or beyond the “costume jewellery trend” contemporary jewellery is becoming under the dictation of dubious editorials.
As an economist, I think the contemporary jewellery sector will undergo a huge restructuring in the next two years. Many (self proclaimed) “VIPs” will disappear.
It is impossible to be resilient without customers.
As an artist, I look for other ways to approach the broader public.
It is only in the interest of the ones who profit from styling themselves as VIPs to keep the jewellery scene tiny and driven by fear; if the scene opens up, jewellery artists and their work will be compared to visual artists: biography, performance, price, collectibility; it will be tough at the beginning; the followers of self proclaimed VIPs may also discover that their idols are No Big Deal “out there” – in the broader world of art.
Our new online and print magazine promoting artist independence – free of charge – will come out in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned!

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