French Mint Influence Credited
As old or as young as they are, medallic objects have not yet come of age. Roger Bezombes created his first medallic object in 1966. France, in a single sanctum, the Paris Mint, has been their nursery. The Paris Mint’s greatest 20th century Mint Director, Pierre de Haye, certainly had the most profound influence, and should be given much credit for the development of medallic objects. Artists and craftsmen he commissioned were creating a new medallic object every new day for the latter part of his tenure as head of the Paris Mint! One new medallic object a day!
Quite reasonably, it can be said, the Paris Mint has enabled medallic artists to have a free hand in trying something new without restraints that their creation must be commemorative, or celebratory, or memorializing, or honorary, or even pretentious, or whatever the cumulative scope of what a medal must be.
The Paris Mint solidified the name medallic objects for the field with the publication La Médaille-Objet in 1985. This catalog manifested the world’s finest medallic objects produced in the previous two decades. Not only did the French name these art objects, the Hôtel de la Monnaie inspired artists from around the world to embrace the new genré even if it was the only entity that would produce them at the time.
Since credit has now been given to the Paris Mint, we can also acknowledge the support of the international organization of medallists and medal publishers, Fédération Internationale de la Médaille (F.I.D.E.M.). Their biannual conclaves have become showcases of what medallists from around the world are currently creating.
What were once biannual displays of circular and nearly square objects have now become a plethora of irregular shapes and medallic formats of great variety. Virtually all new work displayed in medallic exhibitions – by F.I.D.E.M. internationally, American Medallic Sculpture Association in America, and similar organizations in Canada, England, Netherlands, Finland, Poland and other countries – can be classed as medallic objects.
New Art to Live With
The new medium is an ideal collectible, highly desirable. Its diminutive size is in contrast to other art. Once his walls are covered with paintings, and his private gallery is filled with sculpture, the typical art collector can still feed his hunger for acquiring additional art for a small space. Perhaps best of all, is their projected longevity, like coins and medals, these objects will outlast every other art form! While paintings and sculpture have not survived fires and floods, disasters and the vicissitudes of time, coins and medals have. So should medallic objects. They will still be around a couple millennia from now.
Medallic objects are often created by well-known artists. For these highly imaginative innovators is perhaps a chance to try something different, no longer routine, to express their creativity in a different mold. Famous artists, sculptors from around the world, abound in this highly creative glyptic field, alongside artists of medallic specialty only. Newcomers are welcomed. Talent and innovation are the only requirements for creating the new art form.
Notably medallic objects are not intended for the collector’s cabinet – to co-exist with medallic art of past years. More often they will be found on the mantel, tabletop, bookcase, desktop, or other decorative spot, to be easily seen, never put in a drawer, or, heaven forbid! never in a numismatist’s safe deposit box. They must be displayed, to be seen, to be appreciated, to be venerated, to be enjoyed, to be loved. The new media is art to live with. Medallic art to live with. Let them be seen!
But should their destiny be assigned to the art field, or to numismatics? To medallists? Or for art collectors or art museums ? Who will be the market and the makers for the new media in the future?
What about their creators? Should these artists be called object medallists? They dream in spatial relationships. They craft in soft models to form metal patterns. They breathe innovation. Their mind and hand create objects of immense charm.
Characteristics of Medallic Objects
Never larger than 15 inches, medallic objects resonate as intimate art. Examined close up, they can best be appreciated within arm’s reach. In this respect they are much like a coin or medal (none, however, require the magnification glass so necessary for coin enthusiasts or worse yet, the microscope that magnifies surface scratches to trench-like proportions).
Because they are such a new art, they have yet to be tested in the crucible of the art public. Their acceptance must yet come from both critic and collector. They should be examined for their beauty, their perception, their newness, their charm, their desirability, perhaps, in addition to their content.
Medallic objects may have a topic, subject or theme. They may be non objective or representational. They may even be ephemeral medallic beauty – if you wish to call them that – in effect, chewing gum for the eyes.
Medallic Object Characteristics
1) It Must Be Reproducible.
2) It Must Be Attractive (or Not).
3) There Are No Restrictions On Its Creation.
There Are No Other Characteristics
But For Who?
Just what is the charm medallic objects possess? Who wants to own, who wants to acquire these pieces? This is yet to be learned. What has been established is the wide interests among medallic practitioners around the world. They wish to set free the medallic fetuses within them.
We foresee that once a collector has a taste for medallic objects he will profess addiction. Like the possession of any collectible, every art collector – and certainly every numismatist – should have one or two medallic objects. Not only will they be conversation pieces for the collector’s guests, friends and fellow collectors but perhaps symbolic of their membership in a world-wide network of enthusiasts bound by the new medallic genré.
For many medallic artists their creations reside in their studio where they came to life. The artist may create only a single specimen, often for display in some national or international exhibition. In some instances the artist himself will want to replicate the medallic object in his own atelier. For editions of any size, however, he must turn this chore over to special medallic firms or mints that understand the new media.
A collector like New Jersey medallic object enthusiast Donald Scarinci often has to cajole the artist to sell him a piece from the artist’s studio. In one instance it took a year for an artist to agree to sell him the desired piece. (Amazingly, it took another six months for the artist to submit the invoice.) Perhaps this is why art galleries should be purveyors of the new genré, as were the galleries who vended the creations of the first seven art medallists prompted by Art In America magazine. But gallery officials must understand the new media.
While building such a collection, it should be noted, the new owners may be acquiring glyptic art objects – like the original 1965 inspired American creations – slightly ahead of their time. The medallic field is positioned for some interesting time ahead; medallic objects will certainly be a forerunner of that interest for objects that will last for a very long time.
Bryant (Edward) Christmas For Connoisseurs Art In America 53:6 (December–January 1965-66) p 38-44. Documents the birth of medallic objects without mention of the term (coined two decades later).
Hôtel de la Monnaie. La Médaille-Objet. Paris (1985) 216 pages. This catalog of the
Paris Mint displays the heyday of Medallic Objects with the work of 124 world artists, all of which are illustrated. First use of the term “medallic object.”