Nichka Marobin, the Italian curator and art historian, painting the town RED
by Eleonora Varotto
For NYCJW23, curator and art historian Nichka Marobin will present two lectures, one of which will focus on the exhibition RED, ignite the fire, curated by gallerist Charon Kransen of Charon Kransen Arts, on the occasion of his 30th anniversary and the other on her much respected blog, Les Métissages, which looks at fashion and contemporary jewelry. In meeting Nichka I discovered an individual with a deep passion for her craft, love of wonder, and attention to detail which has made her a champion for contemporary art jewelry, an art form that is full of wonder and detail.
Who is Nichka Marobin and how was The Morning Bark born?
I was born as a historian of Dutch and Flemish art and therefore I always have a great attention to detail. The study of the Flemish informed my taste and refined my gaze. During my stay in Holland, I dedicated myself to the study of fantastic creatures, the hybrids that inhabit the Renaissance ornament prints. By their nature, these entities stand only and exclusively on the margins of the main part of the print. I think that mine is really a life in the margins, let me explain better: contemporary jewelry is also a margin of a wider field that lies in the margins of contemporary arts. It is interesting because it is precisely there that life flourishes; is in that territory so intimate and indeterminate but of much ferment in which a multitude of dialogues are born, of encounters that give rise to new and unexpected perspectives. After all what I always say is that I belong to many worlds like everyone else, because we have all lived a life forged by the novels we read, by the films we have seen, from the experiences we have lived and that is something that cements and determines the present of each of us. In 2011 I started my blog The Morning Bark because I thought it was the ideal vehicle to make my worlds talk: the Northern Sixteenth Century, the painting of the Flemish primitives, contemporary jewelry and finally that of fashion studies, which has always fascinated me as an artistic language. So, everything happened as a natural evolution.
Where does the passion for contemporary jewelry come from?
When I was in Holland, I studied sixteenth-century prints that were full of hybrid creatures and ornament. Jewelry was always a part of this. Then in 2008 I met Maria Rosa Franzin, the Paduan goldsmith, and became familiar with her jewelry and activism and from there I started collecting jewels. I later joined the AGC, the Italian Association for contemporary jewelry, in order to broaden my knowledge and this suited me as it corresponded to what I have always loved: the reward of details. The jewel conceals in detail something that corresponds to something much bigger, hence, the closeness with the world of contemporary art. The contemporary jewel is part of my life, that I wear every day even thoughI dress very casually. When someone wears a contemporary jewel, it brings with it its non-replicability. Uniqueness becomes the ability to convey a multitude of messages that are as much personal as collective, of identity and universal. Jewelry gives you the opportunity to express yourself; hence the affinity with fashion. The user never chooses his jewel at random.
Tell us about your research project Les Métissages, you’ll talk about it in NYC, what does it mean to you?
The Les Métissages project was born in 2014 and will turn ten next year. It was born, first of all, from the studies I did in art history, on the life and migration of forms because this is my field of study. It is a project that springs from the aesthetic responses that artists give to a specific request of their time. The goal is to reason on the objective evidence that some forms have and that are substantially managed by artists with different expressive means. The Métissage is never simply about a combination of the best jewel for the best dress. Even if you looked at them, you’d find strong inconsistencies. The only congruence is the objective idea that pertains to a different answer, but starts from the same idea. Almost a thousand examples have been published so far.
You have curated several exhibitions over the past few years. What are your main sources of inspiration? Is there a common thread that links the various activities?
There are several red threads in my curatorial path. First of all, there is a constant dialogue with the world from which I come, that of the Sixteenth Century. Then, there is the need to alternate and create new dialogues and windows. Other red threads are those capable of intersecting disciplines. First there was painting, in 2016 with the exhibition on Ramón Casas, then literature with Italo Calvino. And then there will be music, an embryonic project that I will propose later on. The interesting thing is that everything could be a source of trigger: a particular reading that I did, a specific reflection or simply a thing that settles and that makes itself ready after time, in a certain period of your life. I am very grateful to both Maria Rosa Franzin, Klimt02 and Hannah Gallery because with them I was able to realize the last three big projects. With them I found a structure, a gallery made of people with whom we always create new dialogues. As curator I think I have the privilege of this time, I have the opportunity to talk with artists, work with them and be at the same time a trait d’union, a sounding board, a link. These are basically the things that I consider very important. Imagine what I could have done if Rubens had been alive! Sometimes we forget this great privilege often swallowed by the anxiety of recovering as many images as possible with the mobile phone. Instead, we should give time to time and have the ability to let the stimuli settle. This is one of the reasons why my projects are always planned two, three, even five years ahead. In all the exhibitions I always feel I must give instruments to the artists to give them the freedom to create and about them I then write. That’s why it’s mutual.
This year for NYCJW were invited by the gallerist Charon Kransen to give a talk about the show curated by Charon. How did this collaboration come about?
Yes, Charon invited me to write the text that would inspire the artists to make their work. The text had to be very concise for this exhibition that would focus on his favourite colour: red. I wrote an article and only after a third draft I came up with the text that Charon asked from me. The resulting idea is that red is like a reading, a round of tarot cards because in them, all colours are ambivalent. Every time you catch one that has a religious value, you also know that it has another exactly contrary value. This fascinated us both and from there we decided that the text I had written for the artists would have been the basis for the exhibition concept. The lecture that I will hold on the exhibition will be a historical journey on the different values that the colour red has had in history and millennia: from the prints of hands present in the quarries of the Palaeolithic to the politics of today. Another lecture will be added as a compliment to this talk. Charon always held my Métissages project in high esteem, he recognized it as very new research in the field. The works on display are the visual answer to a spiritual question. Given the relevance, Charon and I thought we could add a lecture on Les Métissages and it would be appropriate.
The exhibition RED ignite the fire will see the participation of 45 international artists. Can you give us a preview? Is there anything in particular that you would like to highlight about the selected works?
Charon hadn’t told me which and how many artists were involved. I just discovered that there are so many! This is a really great number but I have not previewed the work. I like to be surprised and I know it will be a surprise. I can’t wait to see all their artistic languages. It will be great to find out which artists will be there to ask them: “Why did you do this? What did you like?”. It’s highly likely that the answer is in the initial text. I am very happy to have contributed to this exhibition, it has been a great honor for me.
Is there a specific message or emotion that you hope the audience will receive through this exhibition?
Not in general. I just hope they get hit. I wish the audience has the ability to marvel; unfortunately, we’ve lost it a little lately. If only for the fact that we live in truly sad and barbaric times. The ability to be amazed and like me to find salvation in art, it’s not trivial. I hope Charon also puts out the artists’ statements. Because that too is always very important; it is like a spy, a light in a wider path ever.
Which trends or recent developments in the world of contemporary jewellery do you think are worthy of note?
I have to tell you the truth, I tend to pursue a very personal language of mine, which is that of dialogue. I am very convinced that the arts dialogue and I dream of a total work of art. In my future projects I hope to have the ability to connect, to act as a sounding board, as I said earlier. Resonance is a word that I really like because it determines a new threshold. One of the constants of my work is to correlate worlds. Why? Maybe because I’m basically curious and there’s also a voyeuristic side to this. I am very curious about what is the creative process of each and how each comes to a certain final solution. I often ask artists to send me photos of their creative process, I like to know their rituals. The creative process is like a scientific process, an alchemical process. You are in constant experimentation, step by step. That’s why I also like the word threshold. Think of Picasso. Every time he came to the definition of an artistic language he was already beyond. He had already said everything. He was a continuous experimenter.
Any plans for the future?
The future will be on music and it will be on other dialogues. We all belong to different worlds and I hope with my practice to make them collide.
Nichka Marobin is an Italian art historian specializing in Dutch and Flemish art history. She graduated from the Faculty of Arts of the University of Padua with a particular thesis on Renaissance ornament prints from 1500 to 1550 in Germany and the Netherlands. In 2011 she founded “The Morning Bark”: a blo(g)azette on the arts and literary disciplines, in which she publishes her articles through a multidisciplinary path on fine arts, books, fashion and contemporary jewelry. In 2014 she began her project called “Les Métissages” aimed at developing the concepts of migration of shapes and ideas by combining jewelry research with fashion creations.
Eleonora Varotto is an art historian and independent curator specializing in contemporary art and jewelry design. She trained in Padua, Venice, Madrid and Milan. Eleonora has been working in the jewelry field since 2017 and she hasn’t stopped since. She has collaborated in the organization of many events dedicated to the world of jewelry in the city of Milan and London, specializing in contemporary jewelry as a main focus. She founded HOOROON, a project committed to making the uniqueness of contemporary jewelry understandable and accessible to all, not only as an original ornament but as an integral part of the identity of each.