Middlesbrough takes pride in MIMA's new Jewellery Gallery

By Ben Miller | 21 October 2014

Star items chosen by the public, pull-out drawers, films and technology combine at MIMA's new Jewellery Gallery

Click on the picture to launch the gallery

First showcased at the Cleveland Craft Centre in 1984, Middlesbrough’s world-renowned jewellery collection contains pieces from the 1970s to today.

There’s everything from a work about a fictional Emperor Penguin, Freddy, who fought and killed a polar bear for its coat and necklace (by Felieke Van der Leest, the animal-enamoured Dutch designer) to Erenhot, a Mongolian necklace made by Ted Noten as part of a 42-day quest for items between Tokyo and Amsterdam.

“We are thrilled with how it’s looking,” says curator Alix Collingwood, who has overseen the first permanent gallery space to be introduced since Mima’s eye-catching home opened its doors in 2007.

“When the glass went in – that was a beautiful moment. More generally, the whole experience of researching the collection further and giving it a new permanent home has been infinitely rewarding.”

Designed in August 2013, building work on the gallery began in March. A series of public workshops allowed visitors to choose some of the shimmering highlights.

“The audience panel was a great way to hear from a cross-section of our visitors about what they thought of the collection,” says Collingwood.

“It empowered them to choose work to be displayed in the new gallery. A particular favourite of mine is the quirky bell jar shelf and pull-out drawers – they enable us to display a significant proportion of the collection at any one time.

“We are extremely proud of our jewellery collection, which is unique in the UK in its focus and comparable with important collections of contemporary jewellery at the V&A and the Crafts Council.

"It’s an amazing resource to have in Middlesbrough and to be able to open it up to the public in this way is incredible.”

British designers Tatty Devine have gifted 15 pieces of their inimitable handmade pieces to the design – one from each year of their history – alongside 19 creations by stars of the New Jewellery movement.

Dorothy Hogg’s necklace owes much to the owners of another great national jewellery collection, at the V&A – Hogg was temporarily locked out of her studio during her 2008 residency there, creating the work from objects she found in the corridor.

“Previously there hasn’t really been any way to show it within MIMA and I think there was a lot of appetite and a lot of demand, in fact, from people who wanted to see all of the jewellery,” says Alistair Hudson, the Director of the Institute.

“So we were able to fundraise through the university and through Arts Council to build a new, specially dedicated gallery.

“It’s also for people to come and interact with it, really get involved with it and make selections from it and learn from it as well.”

Professor Gerda Roper, of the university, said the gallery would create a “lasting legacy” for the region.

“I think the jewellery is not actually standard, as you might imagine,” she points out.

“It’s slightly off-the-scale; it doesn’t concentrate on rare and expensive stones, but it has got a terrific life force.

“It does begin to question jewellery as an accessory that can also speak a lot about certain issues that perhaps it currently doesn’t.”

  • Open 10am – 4.30pm (7pm Thursday, 12pm-4pm Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free.

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Watch a video about the project:

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