Middlesbrough gallery converts storage space into jewellery showcase

A new jewellery gallery is set to open in a former storage space at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima), designed by an in-house team at the gallery.

Emperor Penguin Freddie with Polar Bear Claw Necklace by Felieke van der Leest

Source: Image (c) Eve Photography

Emperor Penguin Freddie with Polar Bear Claw Necklace by Felieke van der Leest

The new permanent space is being brought about through a collaboration between mima and  Teesside University, and has been funded through a to a grant of almost £300,000 from Arts Council England, received in March last year.


Chloe Lawrence, mima project manager, says, ‘We had this fabulous gallery built, but it didn’t show all of our collection – that’s where the idea [to open the storage space] came from.

‘The original idea was just to take the door off and let people in, then a bigger idea developed to make a beautiful space to display the collection and its value.’

Felieke Van Der Leest, 'Water Flea Brooch With Swim Ring Necklace' 2000. Metallic textile, glass, metal, polystrene.

Source: Collection of mima, Middlesbrough

Felieke Van Der Leest, ‘Water Flea Brooch With Swim Ring Necklace’ 2000. Metallic textile, glass, metal, polystrene.

A team including Lawrence, mima architect Andrew Henderson and curator Alix Collingwood designed the space, which will house the permanent collection but will be varied to change ‘focus’ regularly.

The colour palette will change according to each set-up, and the first, going on display when the gallery opens next month, will examine the history of the collection and the countries of origin of the different pieces.

The ceiling in the space has been heightened, and a wall has been replaced with glass. Free-standing walls are used within the space and will provide backdrops to video projections, including filmed interviews with some of the jewelers by filmmaker Lucy Jolly.


Gallery plan sketch

Lawrence says, ‘These are not traditional jewelers, they’re fine art jewelers, so they use lots of video, sound and mixed media.’

The 200 pieces on show date from the 1970s to the present day, with many works using unusual materials including pan scourers, rubber, horsehair and human teeth. More traditional jewellery includes a gold bracelet worth £37,000 –  the most valuable piece in the collection.

Among the jewellers whose pieces feature in the collection are Ted Noten, Gijs Bakker, Karl Fritsch, Wendy Ramshaw, Otto Künzli and Felieke van der Leest. 

Ten of the works on show have been selected by members of the public from a mima audience panel session earlier in 2014.


Sketch of the gallery entrance

Jewellers Gemma Draper and Janet Hinchliffe McCutheon, who are based at Teesside University, will act as jewellers in residence to help visitors interact with the jewellery and share their knowledge.

The gallery opens to the public on 4 October.

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