DMA Organizes Groundbreaking Modern Silver Exhibition

The Dallas Museum of Art announces the national tour of Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design, a groundbreaking exhibition that explores the aesthetic richness and cultural significance of modern silver design in America between 1925 and 2000. The exhibition, which opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery on Sept. 16, 2005, will serve as a major contribution to decorative arts scholarship and as a touchstone for future projects in the field.

Modernism in American Silver will feature more than 200 magnificent works that explore the creative development of the American silver industry’s creative forays into modernist design.

“This is the first major exhibition to examine modernism’s transformation of the definition of progressive silver design from the late 1920s through the end of the century,” said Kevin W. Tucker, Dallas Museum of Art project director, co-curator, and The Margaret B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Including the work of noted designers, as well as a host of heretofore little-known participants within the industry, the exhibition examines the significance of a largely dismissed era in manufactured silver and logically extends the Dallas Museum of Art’s previous scholarly efforts in the field of American silver.”

The primary goal of Modernism in American Silver is to chart the stylistic design history of modern American production silver. The exhibition will also explore economic and cultural factors that influenced silver design, manufacture and marketing across more than seven decades and seven major thematic areas:

• The Modernist Impulse: Art Moderne
• The Machine Age: Streamline Design
• Modern Classicism
• Naturalism: Scandinavian Influences
• A New Look: Free Form and the 1950s
• Future Dreams: The Space Age
• The Boutique: Architects and Fashion Designers

The exhibition includes the works of widely recognized designers such as Eliel Saarinen, Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Elsa Peretti and Richard Meier, and also will offer important revelations concerning the role of designers such as John Prip, Robert King, John Van Koert, Donald Colflesh and Tommi Parzinger, and a host of individuals whom were seldom recognized by the general public. Many of the works featured in the exhibition are from the Dallas Museum of Art’s Jewel Stern American Silver Collection, the world’s most significant collection of modern American silver.

In addition to the exhibition, a book of the same title will thoroughly catalogue the works and serve as an immensely important resource on American silver—more extensive than any other of its kind currently available. Beginning in the 1920s with the growing fascination in progressive European works, Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design will detail all aspects of the American silver industry’s efforts to capture the market for modern design, resulting in a richer understanding of the transformation of the American silver industry and its explorations of various movements and styles. Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design, published by Yale University Press, will be approximately 350 pages in length and heavily illustrated in color.

Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery (Sept. 16, 2005 to Jan. 22, 2006). Additional venues include the Dallas Museum of Art (June 18, 2006 through Sept. 24, 2006), The Wolfsonian – Florida International University, Miami (in November 2006), and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis (in April 2007).

Modernism in American Silver: 20th-Century Design was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. Exhibition support provided by the Judith and Richard Bressler/The Bressler Foundation, Ajax Foundation, and General Mills Foundation. Publication of the exhibition catalogue was underwritten by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation.

Silver at the Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art seriously began collecting silver in 1987 with the gift of the Hoblitzelle Collection of English silver. This collection joined the Museum’s holdings of Victorian-era silver including ornate serving pieces by Tiffany, Gorham, and Whiting. In 1989, the Museum purchased several pieces from the sale of the Sam Wagstaff Collection including the Gorham’s iconic iceberg bowl and a Tiffany Chrysanthemum pitcher.

By the late 1990s the Museum acquired the Belmont-Rothschild humidor by Tiffany and the dressing table and stool Gorham made for the 1900 Paris Exposition and other important pieces that began to shape the Museum’s collection.

In the summer of 2002, the Dallas Museum of Art acquired the most important private collection of 20th-century American silver in existence: The Jewel Stern American Silver Collection. Assembled over two decades by scholar Jewel Stern, the collection consists of more than 400 pieces of industrially produced American silver. The addition of this magnificent collection gives the Dallas Museum of Art one of the most significant holdings of late 19th- and 20th-century American silver in the world and solidifies the Museum’s position as a leading center for collecting and scholarship in this field.