2015 Rakow Commission: Bernhard Schobinger

2015 Rakow Commission: Bernhard Schobinger

Tantric Object Bernhard Schobinger (Swiss, born 1946) Made in Switzerland, Richterswil, 2015 Found glass (antique Swiss poison bottles) and glass tubes, cut; Japanese urushi gold lacquer, nylon string 2015.3.15, 30th Rakow Commission

Tantric Object
Bernhard Schobinger (Swiss, born 1946)
Made in Switzerland, Richterswil, 2015
Found glass (antique Swiss poison bottles) and glass tubes, cut; Japanese urushi gold lacquer, nylon string
2015.3.15, 30th Rakow Commission

The 30th Rakow Commission was awarded to Swiss studio jeweler Bernhard Schobinger.

Schobinger is recognized as a key figure of avant-garde contemporary jewelry, and his subversive approach to making spans more than 45 years, earning him a reputation for rebelliousness to innovation. In his work, Schobinger scavenges for materials that have nothing to do with traditional jewelry, such as shards of glass and pottery, colored pencils, spent underwear elastic, worn eraser nubs, nails, piano keys, and screws.

Tantric Object is made from the bottoms of old Swiss glass poison bottles, shaped like skulls. They are cut and decorated with gold lacquer. The end plate displays the molded word “GIFT,” which has a double meaning: in English, gift means “a present,” and in German, it means “poison.”

Recently-retired senior curator of modern and contemporary glass, Tina Oldknow, selected Schobinger for the commission because of his “unconventional world view,” and “aim not to cultivate a purist attitude toward poor materials, but to work, almost alchemically, on creating blends of materials in particular proportions.”

Tantric Object is based on a belief in Tantric Buddhism, Schobinger says, where necklaces made from skulls are symbols of emptiness and of the illusion of reality. The necklace he created is a contemporary expression of that emptiness.

Tantric Object will generate a conversation about the reuse of discarded materials to create provocative works of unexpected beauty.

“Only one other jeweler has ever been recognized with the Rakow Commission,” said Karol Wight, president and executive director of The Corning Museum of Glass. “The fact that Schobinger was chosen this year is a testament to the importance of his exploration of discarded materials as a means to challenge the conventional histories of body adornment. Tantric Object will generate a conversation about the reuse of discarded materials to create provocative works of unexpected beauty.”

Schobinger's jewelry has appeared in over 50 general publications and exhibition catalogues. His most recent monographs are Glenn Adamson, Florian Hufnagl, and Bernhard Schobinger, Bernhard Schobinger: The Rings of Saturn, Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2014; and Roger Fayet and others, Bernhard Schobinger: Jewels Now, Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2003.

Schobinger’s Tantric Object will be the first addition to the Contemporary Art + Design Wing since it opened in March. Next to the new work is Glassfly Ring, which Schobinger gifted to the Museum. It is composed of a found glass bottleneck and two commercial eyeglass lenses that serve as the fly’s wings, as well as Akoya pearls that form the eyes. 

The Rakow Commission is an annual award that was inaugurated in 1986 by Museum benefactors Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow. Over the years, Rakow Commission recipients have ranged from emerging to established artists. Currently, the commission is awarded to professional artists, from the United States and abroad, whose work is not yet represented in the Museum's collection.