Curator’s Eye: Silver Beverage Service

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The five-piece beverage service is a marvelous little city unto itself

SILVER IS NO LONGER AS CENTRAL TO AMERICAN LIFE as it was in our parents’ and grandparents’ day—when it was considered the first choice for wedding gifts, table ornaments, or congratulatory trophies. Yet contemporary silver is a dazzlingly lustrous and versatile medium that has visual excitement and appeal. Wishing to feature its renowned American silver collection, the Museum of the City of New York has set up a dialogue between these marvelous historical materials and the work of contemporary artists in the ongoing exhibition New York Silver: Then and Now. Half of the twenty-five artists show-cased in the exhibition are trained silversmiths, and the balance hail from the creative arts, including design, architecture, sculpture, and painting. The results of their efforts are as varied as the artists themselves. From the functional to the avant-garde, some works are an investigation of the silversmith’s craft, while others offer social commentary; still others push the envelope in unexpected ways, such as a “Pasta-Loving Bowl” made of cast dry pasta.

Wendy Yothers, Gotham tête-à-tête beverage service, Karbra Casting Co. Silver, raised, formed, fabricated, cast, chased, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and the Museum of the City of New York

The Gotham tête-à-tête beverage service is an example of new silver created expressly for the show by Wendy Yothers, chair of jewelry design and professor of silversmithing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. A recipient of a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence from the State University of New York, Yothers is intimately familiar with the language of historical silver, much of it gained during her tenure with Tiffany & Co. Yothers’s best work creates narratives or initiates questions; in recent years she has also developed concepts that include glass elements produced in collaboration with artists at the Corning Museum of Glass. Appropriately, for New York Silver, Then and Now, she made the city of New York the focus of the beverage service, using the museum’s tall, domed and pierced casters by Adrian Bancker and the prominent high lid of a 1750–1760s teapot by Daniel Christian Fueter (lent by a collector) as inspiration for the city’s skyscrapers. From their delicate finials to their narrow, angular forms, the five-piece beverage service is a marvelous little city unto itself, evocative of New York in the art deco era. While the forms are familiar, it is most definitely not your grandmother’s silver, and it assuredly stakes out new territory for the field in the twenty-first century.

Jeannine Falino
Guest Curator
Museum of the City of New York