It is with great sadness that the Australia Council acknowledges the passing of Mari Funaki.
Meticulously constructed, Mari Funaki’s extraordinary jewellery and objects have an immediacy of engagement that comes only through long and thoughtful consideration. As Paul Derrez explains they are ‘… concerned with the tension and balance of three-dimensionality, with contrast and complexity, with subtle details and shading effects.’
In recognition of her acclaimed work as a maker and designer, and also because of her inspirational role in promoting contemporary jewellery design in Australia, the Visual Arts Board awarded Mari our 2007 Visual Arts Emeritus Award.
– Professor Ted Snell, Visual Arts Board Chair
Mari Funaki is a distinguished Australian jeweller. She is known not only for her substantial artistic output but also for the establishment of Gallery Funaki, which nurtured the careers of so many distinguished contemporary jewellers.
Mari arrived from Japan in 1979. After studying gold and silversmithing at RMIT, she saw the need for a gallery space dedicated to contemporary jewellery. Gallery Funaki opened in 1995 and provided an important platform for Australian jewellers, including Robert Baines, Julie Blyfield, Marian Hosking, Johannes Kuhnen, Carlier Makigawa, Mascha Moje, Sally Marsland, Blanche Tilden, Margaret West, Catherine Truman & Sue Lorraine. At the same time she attracted leading overseas jewellers including Warwick Freeman, Karl Fritsch & Lisa Walker, Manon van Kouswijk and Otto KÜnzli. Mari’s consistency of vision and high standards helped ensure that Gallery Funaki was seen internationally as one of the world’s key jewellery spaces.
At the same time, Mari maintained her own artistic career in metal and jewellery. Her black geometric objects in mild steel expressed a distinct personal language of shape. She received the prestigious Herbert Hoffman Prize twice, in 1996 and 1999, and was selected for the Australia Council Emeritus Award in 2007.
Mari had a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia last year and was due to have an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in August this year, which will still proceed.
She bravely contended breast cancer and finally passed away on 13 May. Gallery Funaki will continue Mari’s legacy under the new director, Katie Scott.
The Australia Council would like to thank Dr Kevin Murray for writing Mari’s obituary. We would also like to thank Marian Hosking, who provided us with the image of Mari installing her 2009 show at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.