For over 25 years now, the jewelry class at the Art College “AR.CO” in Lisbon, Portugal, has analyzed to what extent jewelry can make a confident and authentic statement in the artistic sector. Students and lectures from all over the world meet here to work together on probably the most personal forms of expression in the applied arts.
Tereza Seabra the curator and Christina Filipe, the head of department – both renowned jewelry artists, are in charge of this analysis of jewelry and art. Historical, sociological and anthropological perspectives form an integral part of their learning content to enable and encourage the students’ ability to understand jewelry in a contemporary and innovative form. They believe that meeting people is one of the most important means of discovering something about jewelry and how it is created. These meetings between cultures, disciplines and technologies help achieve progress in the analysis. They see the attraction in developing jewelry as being the process and the critical appraisal between people, more so even than in the end product. Starting with the goldsmith s work bench, students and lecturers analyze how daily life can be captured within a statement of form. For example, how can we visualize the desire for a just world? How can students contribute through jewelry to experiencing life in a more intense and conscious form?
During the development process, the jewelry makers should realize that an item of jewelry reflects two identities – the identity of the person who created it and the identity of the person wearing it. Accordingly, the human body and its cultural environment are at the heart of the analysis. International lecturers are invited in order to increase the quality of these analyses. Their specific points of view are intended to enrich the long history of jewelry in Portugal and to accompany it into the future.
So much to the theory of every day life at an Art College – the practical results themselves are found in the noteworthy and thrilling exhibition “meeting points” in the “Museo Gulbenkian” in Lisbon. The fact that the exhibition is held there is a sensation in its own right. After all, this museum normally only exhibits cultural treasures of global significance. The museum is funded by the “Fondacion Gulbenkian”, one of the world’s most famous private culture foundations. The patron and financier Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian (1869 – 1955) made an inestimable fortune in the oil business as “Mr. Five Percent” and became one of the 20th century’s foremost art collectors. Of Armenian descent, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Istanbul, before studying engineering in Marseille and London. He described himself as picky and enthusiastic – and his collection mirrors these traits. The over 6,000 items reveal a spectrum of Islamic, Greek and Egyptian art, as well as painting, sculpture and applied art hailing from the Renaissance through to the modern age.
A true highlight in every sense of the word is the globally unique collection of exquisite enamel and goldsmith work by Renee Lalique, some of which Gulbenkian personally commissioned. An entire wing of the museum is dedicated to this imaginative and spectacular work, which was created during the golden age of Art Deco.
Gulbenkian spent the war years in Lisbon and set up the foundation out of thankfulness for the hospitality. Indeed, this foundation still accounts for a considerable portion of the Portuguese cultural budget. The “Fondacion Gulbenkian” funds a foundation for humanitarian purposes, a ballet, an orchestra that grants free entrance to the Sunday matinee performances and various museums that exhibit the Gulbenkian collection, as well as a foundation for education, science and research. This specific foundation has also supported the Art College “AR CO” since its opening in 1974. The Gulbenkian Museum now offers the appropriate setting for a retrospective exhibition of the last 25 years.
A charming catalogue provides insight into a lively art scene, which is largely – and unjustly – unknown in the rest of the European continent. Until the end of May 2004, the curator Tereza Seabra presented work by current and former students on an equal standing with current jewelry by internationally famous stars of the scene, who had provided impulses as guest lecturers. She rounded the exhibition off with a retrospective of the work in the Art College AR.CO’s own collection, which has been enlarged successively over the last 25 years.