What a feast for medal collectors! The 34th FIDEM congress for medals (International Federation for Medals), new and , place in Ghent last week from 6-10 September 2016. Because Belgium is at least bi-lingual Vlaams/French there were also exhibitions in Namur, in the south French-speaking part. About 150 people took part in this biennial event; artists, collectors, manufacturers, museum curators and anyone curious about these fascinating hand-held sculptures.
For most congress attendees the really interesting exhibition is the FIDEM exhibition of contemporary medals, those produced in the last two years. There you can see developments in style and technique, by individuals and by countries. The winner of the Grand Prix de la FIDEM (main prize of the International Medal Federation) for work exhibited there is announced at the closing banquet. This year the prize went to the British sculptor and medallist, Ron Dutton.
A popular choice – for despite Ron’s great age (well, he’s older than me) the judges (from Portugal, Finland and Spain) all agreed that his work sent to the FIDEM exhibition in Gent, like the medal left, looks like that of a young man, energetic and novel, using mixed media. Ron’s still experimenting after 40 years of making medals, teaching and inspiring other people to try this rather demanding art form. Unfortunately Ron wasn’t able to attend as usual but we heard him on the phone, for once almost speechless at having won. Couldn’t have done that in the past before smartphones!
The usual crammed programme included lectures by artists about their current working methods and techniques, and by art historians and collectors, taking a more historical perspective about the relationship between artist and manufacturer. And then there were the other exhibitions; on the Gent medallist Geo Verbanck (Bank van de Arbeid) whose sculpture can be seen all around the city: Then there was the exhibition of some 60 medals from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, a small part from a much larger collection including works for the 1910 Brussels Salon de la Medaille, the 1913 Ghent world exhibition and medals purchased directly in Paris. As a result the collection has a capsule collection of Art Nouveau/Belle Epoque medals pre WW1. Thanks go to all the FIDEM Ghent/Namur organising committee and especially to Paul Huybrechts.