This unique and beguiling piece of jewellery challenges your assumptions and asks you to believe.
Swiss-trained, Munich-based artist Otto Künzli is one of the world’s most renowned and respected contemporary jewellers. He was Professor and Head of postgraduate studies in Goldsmithing and Jewellery at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1991 to 2014.
It’s fair to say that Otto has had a longstanding fascination with gold, as both material and symbol.
His 1980 artwork “Gold Makes Blind” is a bangle made from black rubber and gold; although the gold is comprised solely of a completely encased and concealed 12mm diameter sphere.
The bangle was a reaction to what Otto perceived at the time to be an arbitrary use of that ancient and sacred metal by creators who would use it in gratuitous ways in order to imbue their work with “value”.
“Gold Makes Blind” was his pissed-off response. It’s a work that is about knowing without seeing. It’s about trust … and it challenges one’s perceptions about truth and material value.
The thing about “Gold Makes Blind” is that you are asked to believe.
We recently asked Otto to reminisce about “Gold Makes Blind” and here are some of his words:
“The first one I made for my wife and she is still wearing it very often. The second one I gave to a Munich artist-friend in exchange for a piece of his art and he gave it to his girlfriend. She never took it off and he complained that the hard ball sometimes hurts beneath his back when she kept the bangle on in bed (while making love) … Some people tried it on at once and never took it off again; others abandoned all their other jewellery for it. Some feel naked and incomplete without it …”
And then there was the American banker and collector who, when giving presentations to investors, used to show them his bangle, telling the story of it and that there was a gold sphere inside. He would say that one would either have to trust the artist, or if not … destroy the bangle in order to find out if it was true. And he would conclude that this was the same with the bank. Investors must either trust the bank; or, if not, destroy its foundation. [A bit self serving … but an interesting metaphor nonetheless.]
Finally, Otto tells this amusing story:
“One bangle I sold via a Munich Gallery to a rich lady who gave it to her teenage son. This piece came back for repair just a few weeks after delivery. The eye-shaped opening in the rubber (a result of wear over time) looked a bit awkward but I replaced the tubing as per my promise to all buyers. One week later it came back again. Now I took a closer look and could clearly see that the rubber must have been cut with a sharp knife. I could also see a mark on the gold sphere. I spoke – via the gallery – with the mother and she was shocked but had immediately a suspicion. Her son was showing off in front of his friends telling them that there was a gold sphere inside and if they didn’t believe it he offered to cut the bangle open and even told them that the artist was anyway going to repair it for free. With the agreement of the mother I put a wooden sphere into the new rubber tubing! And yes, after he cut it open AGAIN, he had to face his mother to share the bad surprise news … and she forced him to bring it back to me in person, and to apologise …”
PS: Otto continues to produce this iconic bangle. If you would like one be in touch with Katie at Funaki in Melbourne via Instagram @galleryfunaki.
1. Gold Makes Blind. Bracelet: Black Rubber & Gold. Photo: Otto Künzli.
2. Gold Makes Blind. Photo: Otto Künzli.
3. Gold Makes Blind Installation. First presentation to the public in 1980. Galerie Rehklau, Augsburg, Germany. Photo: Otto Künzli.
4. Otto Künzli. Photo: Therese Hilbert.
5. Het Parool Newspaper. Amsterdam, 4 December 1980.
6. Script for Lecture. Source: Otto Künzli.
7. Slides Used in Lecture
8. Hiko Mizuno. President of the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewellery, Tokyo. Photo: Yoko Miura.
9. Helen W. Drutt English, collector and museums adviser, former director of Gallery Drutt, Philadelphia USA. Collector and museums adviser, and former director of Gallery Drutt, Philadelphia , USA. Photo: Mihai Burlacu.
10. Anna Schwartz. Director of the Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.
11. Gold Makes Blind Makes News. Sunday Sun Herald. 6 March 2016.
Otto K has always been very good at telling stories that bring his work alive.
He adds heart to the conceptual frame that underpins his body of work.
Been so long since I’ve seen or thought about this magical work.
Rem, thanks for the reminder.
I love the idea of taking the presence of the gold on faith, but also the interestingness of the things that aren’t visible , it made me think of two things… Oliver Jeffers’ dipped paintings https://www.oliverjeffers.com/oliver-jeffers.. and the beautiful pendant I own, made by one Lola Giuffré :)