The gallery-owner Marie-José van den Hout has focused on contemporary jewelry art in her gallery in Nijmegen in Holland for the last 25 years. Conveying it as an independent form of art is still the task for a pioneer.
“I see Gallery Marzee a bit like the Garden of Eden”. These enthusiastic words from a customer cannot be taken for granted, although the founder and owner of Gallery Marzee believes that jewelry is “the most public form of art, referring to our easy access to it”. Over the last 25 years, Marie-Jose van den Hout has presented modern jewelry in numerous exhibitions and publications. She is indeed entirely tireless in promoting its position as an independent art form.
The idea of opening a gallery was derived from her interest in and secure feel for art. Thanks to her passion for beautiful precious metals, which her father and grandfather passed on – both were masters in an ecclesiastic goldsmith studio – she turned this interest into a gallery. Her dedication and imaginative nature, which unite a sovereign attitude with natural authority, have made the gallery a very prominent showcase for international jewelry art. It is the largest gallery of its kind around the world and is highly appreciated by jewelry designers and an international clientele in equal measures. The Marzee has indeed become an institution, not least because it awards two prestigious prizes. The coveted Marzee Graduate Prize is awarded in the summer months, when a selection of graduate pieces by gold and silversmiths from leading academies and colleges around the world are presented in the gallery. The annual crowd-puller is the award of the financially attractive Marzee Prize. In 2003, the Italian Francesco Pavan received the honor; Dorothea Prühl, Ute Eitzenhöfer, Iris Bodemer and Lucy Sarneel were the prize winners in the years before.
At the end of the nineties, van den Hout managed to put one of her visions into practice and restored a dilapidated grain store in Nijmegen. This state of the art building is now an attraction in its own right and offers almost 1,000 sq.m. of variable exhibition space. The glass house, which towers up through all floors of the gallery offers a direct connection from the pedestrian zone to the gallery. Anyone entering this space will practically find themselves in a showcase and in a place that constantly features spectacular installations. Generous displays on four other levels enable visitors to come into direct contact with the exhibits.
Five individual exhibitions by various artists take place in the gallery every two months. They do not have any common topic, but they do reflect van den Hout’s global perspective and her universal consciousness. Most of the work is linked to concept ideas, which often go beyond questions of perceived social values. A tour through the entire gallery does offer a lot more, however. A high wall cabinet made of glass holds a varied range of work by internationally renowned artists, while 160 drawers in large metal cabinets invite visitors to take a look at works by almost 100 jewelry artists. In addition to necklaces by Dorothee Striffler, the permanent exhibition shows the gallery’s jewelry collection and a collection of combs that was put together years ago.
The variety of the top quality work, which is astonishing in every sense of the word, is what makes the gallery so exciting. Van den Hout takes great care and displays a delicate touch in arranging the exhibits to make sure that contexts are visible and that each piece can develop its own effects independently, without obstructing other pieces. The events are documented progressively in the “Marzee Magazin”. Jewelry lovers can take the treasures home with them – at paper form – on 32 color pages gallery owner is still moved by the in which she can enthrall people her deep-rooted enthusiasm. She constantly searching for new opportunities to lend added clout to modern jewelry on national and international levels. Her questions give us food for thought: why do people prefer “anonymous” jewelry to jewelry by first-class, educated and talented artists? If it is not a question of quality, why do jewelry designers not become as famous as Vincent van Gogh or Peter Klashorst?
The exhibition series “Jewelry, the choice of …” is another of the gallery owner’s exciting projects. A well-known figure in a certain city demonstrates which significance modern jewelry can have for women wearing it and for their environments. The women make a well-considered selection from the gallery’s “designer pool” and are then photographed with the jewelry. Seven books have already been published in this way, and others will follow.
- 1/25/2004 – 3/17/2004: Iris Bodemer, Manuel Vilhena, Dörte Dietrich, Rainer Milewski
- 2/3/2004: Jewelry, European Parliament’s Choice
- 3/21/2004 – 5/12/2004. Marzee Prize, Antje Bräuer, Francesco Pavan, Julie Mollenhauer, Opening of the Marzee Collection
- 5/16/2004 – 7/7/2004. Karin Seufert, Tatort 2
- 8/1/2004: Exhibition of exam pieces