If geniuses are misunderstood, Chus Burés (Barcelona, 1964) fits the bill, making his first jewelry from recycled materials in the very late ’70s, when Barcelona was already at the forefront while Madrid were still awaiting La Movida arrived to this day, which, with an exhibition, recovers the original spirit of its creations Fragile (which will be on view at the Alcobendas Art Center until September 11th). This jewelry designer, who saw his moment of greatest popularity when Almodóvar commissioned the iconic hairpin from the film bullfighter, continues to work for selected minorities. Their customers buy their jewels in the same circles and with the same premises as the great collectors. Maybe that’s why his house, in the heart of the Salamanca neighborhood where he has lived for 30 years and welcomes us, looks like an art gallery.
Why did you leave the Barcelona avant-garde you belonged to come to Madrid?
In the time of Felipe González, one of his concerns was industrial conversion. The socialists thought that one way to promote textiles was from the bottom up, from creativity. When the designers sold, the factories ran yards. In this context, I met Manuel Piña in Ibiza, who invited me to make him jewelry for a fashion show at the former Contemporary Art Museum, now the Costume Museum. I made a collection for them out of paper and various recycled materials, which was nonsense… The other designers wore pearls and I fell into this madness. Later, at the cocktail party, I’ll never forget, people were smoking next to him picassoof you saw, I hallucinated. I found Madrid to be an authentic, wild, unpretentious city that was everything and nothing. Even though you’re from Barcelona, you’ve done a lot of work. The Catalans are highly regarded and Jordi Pujol had just arrived in Catalonia and landed like a gray beret. The avant-garde scene in which I moved was gone.
Did they call you to complain?
No, when I came back to Barcelona they said to me: “How can you live in Madrid when the streets are dirt and people throw the heads of the shrimps and the shells of the mussels on the floor of the bars?” I even suggested to an architect friend of mine why we don’t make a carpet out of shrimp heads and shells. I was fascinated by Madrid.
Is Madrid still that exciting?
Well, because we didn’t have a past back then, and we still didn’t know how this back-and-forth madness worked. The night was mixed with the day, with creativity, with everything. I was a great host, this house was the place for the parties, one day we did everything with orange lightbulbs, another with green handkerchiefs… We had no reference or anyone to tell us, “Be careful if you go out with this person a lot, spend a lot of money on drugs that will take their toll”.
When did you notice that?
Maybe in the nineties. That scared me a bit because I saw that it’s a whirlpool that if I let myself get carried away…
Wasn’t he drawn?
I would tell you no, not at all. Thanks to my Catalan culture, I was one of those who worked the next day. That’s why my competitors still criticize me.
One of the most impressive pieces in the exhibition is a body-covering necklace, on which one can read a sentence by Pasolini: “Adult? May” [¿Adulto? Jamás] Why?
Because being young has to do with the desire to keep surprising yourself, to meet new people, to trust. The interest and curiosity for everything is not learned in the best families or in the best universities. For example, I’m often asked why Spanish women don’t wear my designs.
And why don’t the Spaniards wear their designs?
Because many are not curious at all. There is no culture of body jewelry. Many people prefer to wear something that is like a check to a valuable jewel for their creativity. My clients in Paris always tell me: we are looking for originality above all. It doesn’t matter to them whether it’s gold, platinum or plastic. Not here. Here you make a plastic thing and they throw it in your face. Class is one thing, absurd swagger is another.
Now there are many new Latin American investors in Madrid, do they represent a new business opportunity for you?
I’ve had the Latinas come visit me in Madrid in New York, but yes, I sense a lot of flare-ups. It is in the interests of the President of the Community, she wants to make Madrid a city of unity brains Latinos.
What collaboration has enabled you to make a major qualitative leap in your career?
Maybe the ones I did with Louise Bourgeois. Working with such eminent artists has given me access to collectors circles who want exclusive pieces no matter what metal or material they work with. You don’t want to meet anyone wearing the same necklace as the Queen did the other day.
And your worst preserved collection?
Well, a Catalan industrialist commissioned me to create a collection using precious metals, very fine bones with cabochons in the femurs. He kicked me out of his office and then I decided to produce it in my own studio and I’m still selling it to this day. Since 1987.
What Spanish can you imagine with her jewels?
To Tita Thyssen, at a certain moment, even though I’m more of a woman than an architect. Lady Foster is very fond of me, she has several of my pieces, she admires my designs very much. Recently, at a private event at the Venice Biennale, he spoke wonderful things to everyone about me, for which I am very grateful.
What’s the strangest assignment you’ve received?
Many years ago a great collector of Spanish art commissioned me to do this pierce for his girlfriend’s private parts. I made him a white gold padlock. When I delivered the order to him, I also gave him a key and told him that I had left seven others in cities across Europe. It was funny.
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