General Gallery Reviews

Findings, May 2012

Findings, May 2012

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About Us


Justine Brooks meets Kath Libbert in Saltaire

Kath started her gallery in 1996 - embarking on her venture into the curating of wonderful jewellery whilst continuing for the first five years to work part time as a psychologist for the NHS. Sixteen years on and the gallery is now one of the foremost contemporary jewellery galleries in Britain, displaying and selling work by acclaimed international art jewellers and goldsmiths alongside that of new graduates. In a recent article in The Times Luxx Magazine, the gallery was described as 'For clients who want jewels that push boundaries...the antidote to the high street', The Gallery is situated within Salts Mill, a former textile mill in Saltaire that is an arts destination in its own right showing the world's largest permanent collection of work by David Hockney.
I went to see Kath to ask her what makes the gallery stand out, what will visitors find that is unique.
Communication is all important: I want people to engage as fully
as possible in the experience of appreciating and enjoying jewellery so we often include a participatory element in our exhibitions. For example with Matters of Life & Death 2011, which included challenging work such as neckpieces made of carbon and horsehair along with a necklace created from sawn-up shotguns, we invited visitors to be photographed wearing a piece that excited, moved, or even revolted.. .and to record rheir response on cards forming an ever growing Chain of Thought hanging from the gallery ceiling, which became an integral part of the exhibition.
Collaboration is also central, I like working with other organisations locally and internationally because of the possibilities this presents for creating interesting exhibitions and expanding audiences. For instance I initiated an exchange exhibition Distinto/Distinct with Hipotesi, a renowned jewellery gallery in Barcelona and with the help of Crafts Council and Arts Council funding took UK jewellers to exhibit in Barcelona and Catalan jewellers came to us! Locally we collaborated with The Great Yorkshire Show to create our own exhibition called Great Yorkshire Talent in which all the work was by local jewellers and had to be inspired by the same judging categories as in the real agricultural show— so lots of animal jewellery!
Basically most of our exhibitions are multi-facetted employing different strategies such as documentaries, competitions, site specific commissions, workshops etc... to engage and enthral!
How do you maintain the identity of the gallery?
We have a very strong house style - with much of the work on show crossing the boundaries between fine art, sculpture, fashion and jewellery. I've always had a very clear aesthetic vision for the gallery. Firstly work has to be well crafted but then it's about surprising me, provoking me, presenting me with something
intriguingly beautiful.

How do you select work for the gallery?
It often involves travel! I visit jewellery events and galleries nationally and internationally. The most extraordinary of these is Schmuck, in Munich every spring. It's an exhilarating experience - a meeting place for everyone in the contemporary jewellery world - collectors, gallerists, jewellers. I strive to experience Schmuck with an open mind - waiting to be inspired by work that expresses
the Zeitgeist and whilst there I formulate ideas for the gallery's
annual summer exhibition.
I like to work with a theme.
This can be prompted by external events such as with Matters of Life & Death 2011 an exhibition that explored the responses of nine international jewellery artists to destruction and regeneration coming just after the start of the Arab Spring and Japanese earthquake. At other times the themes are to do with personal passions, as in Czech It Out inspired by my Czech Jewish heritage, and a desire to give a platform to some radical Czech jewellers none of whom had previously exhibited in the UK.
So what are the aims of the gallery?
Just to engage, inspire, and give pleasure, and to sell well for us and the jewellers! To encourage people to consider both the art and the craft of the work we show. Additionally we hold special Collectors' Events, the most recent of which featured Jacqueline Mina OBE in conversation with collector and patron of the ACJ Lady Marie Alexander.
What are the most important aspects of running the gallery

Relationships! I have a strong commitment to the relationships I form with customers, jewellers and staff. Loyalty to my jewellers is very important to me. Many of the jewellers we represent have exhibited with the gallery from the beginning. I also put a lot of effort into attracting local and national media coverage for the artists. Additionally much time is spent making full web catalogues for all our exhibitions so there is now an extensive archive.

Picture: Kath Libbert, wearing a necklace of pearls and rubber gloves by Min-Ji Cho, and holding a necklace in acrylic dust by Sarah Lindsay.

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm.