Posts tagged ‘art’

New Installation: Style and Status in Sterling


Art nouveau loving cup given to a New Jersey insurance executive to celebrate his forty years of service, Gorham Manufacturing Company, 1905. Silver, 19 x 13 in. Gift of James Hillas, 1967.

Nobody has ever needed objects made of silver. Yet silver objects have been made and used and treasured here since Europeans first set foot in North America.

So why would a museum want to create a gallery devoted to the use and production of silver objects for the American home? The answer is simple. Because silver still matters, even if many Americans have forgotten why.

This is why museums exist, after all: to remind us of things we’ve forgotten or maybe didn’t even know in the first place. Silver is part of our history, and it is part of our artistic heritage as a nation.

In May 2017, in the original Guest Room of the 1885 Ballantine House, the Newark Museum will unveil its first-ever permanent gallery devoted to American silver from the Colonial period to the present day. The approximately one hundred objects, ranging from
tablespoons to massive candelabra, represent the story of silver in America and were chosen from one of the most comprehensive museum collections of American silver in the country.


One of a pair of candelabra made for the Paris World’s Fair in 1900. Tiffany & Co., 1900. Silver, 28 ½ x 22 x 12 ½ in. Purchase 2011 Helen McMahon Brady Cutting Fund.

Two of the key themes are “Because we love you” and “Showing off.” Silver is a mineral (Ag on the periodic table of elements) and has been considered precious since ancient Egypt and Han Dynasty China (206 BC–AD 220). For thousands of years, silver has been associated with money and power. As a result, its intrinsic value has elevated the prestige of any object made from it and any person who owns it.

If you give someone an object made of silver, you are telling them they are loved; they matter; they are precious. That’s why silver objects are given to couples to honor their marriage or mark an anniversary. Silver is also given to celebrate the
birth of a child, or to honor a long career or a job well done.

“Showing off” is a less subtle theme. Because silver had long been associated with cash and therefore represented literal wealth, silver objects are a traditional way to demonstrate personal status. One of the Museum’s founding trustees purchased a massive pair of ornate silver candelabra that Tiffany had displayed in two different world’s fairs.


Coffeepot by Ubaldo Vitali and Leonard DiNardo, 1999. Silver and glass, 13 x 7 ½ x 5 ¼ in. Gift of Movado.

The exhibition’s simplest themes involve stylistic change over time and the use of silver as an artistic medium. A small timeline of coffeepots demonstrates how silver has traditionally been an indicator of current fashion. Nine beautiful coffeepots show how a single form changed stylistically from the middle of the 18th century to the beginning of the 21st. Every stop on the timeline will include a snippet of American history to remind visitors what was going on when each piece was made. A unique coffeepot made in New York City by Halsted and Myers dates from the mid-1760s, just after the end of the French and Indian War. Myer Myers was the only Jewish silversmith in Colonial America, and Benjamin Halsted had a silver shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

At the other end of the spectrum, a postmodern coffeepot, made in 1999, was a collaboration between New Jersey silversmith Ubaldo Vitali, and New Jersey glassmaker Leonard DiNardo. Commissioned by Movado for the Millennium, it recalls a time when people everywhere were worried about the “Y2K bug” that was going to cause computers all over the world to crash.

Because silversmithing can be an expression of artistic talent, there is a section devoted to silver objects that were intended as works of art. Another section of the gallery will be devoted to objects made of electroplated silver. The technology for electrically transferring pure silver onto the surface of a base-metal object (tin, copper or another white metal) was developed in the United States by the 1840s. This allowed people of modest means to have access to silver objects.


Colonial coffeepot made in the shop of Myer Myers and Benjamin Halsted, 1763–65. Silver and wood, 11 x 8 ½ x 5 ½ in. Purchase 2016 Mr. and Mrs. WIlliam V. Griffin Fund.

Every major religion has used silver vessels for its worship practices because of the ancient belief that silver was purifying and noble. There are four objects that specifically relate to Christian and Jewish religious rituals.

There is also a small section, clustered on the Guest Room’s carved mantelpiece, reminding visitors that Newark was a major silversmithing city, and encouraging them to visit Newark, City of Silver and Gold from Tiffany to Cartier.

– Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator and Curator  of Decorative Arts

Style & Status in Sterling is made possible by:Ruth L. Hutter and Eleonore Kessler Cohen & Max Insel Cohen


May 25, 2017 at 1:15 pm Leave a comment

Curator’s Musings ~ Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum

Building on the Museum’s historic role as a leader in collecting and exhibiting art by African-American artists, Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum features 34 works of painting and sculpture by leading modern and contemporary artists. Using the permanent collection to trace a period of time—from the 1940s to the present—the exhibition is comprised almost entirely of selections from the Museum’s permanent collection of American Art. Some highlights of Modern Heroics include large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas, among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.


Beauford Delaney, The Burning Bush, 1941. Oil on paperboard, 20 ¾ x 24 ¾ in. Purchase by exchange, 1988. Gift of Emilie Coles from the J. Ackerman Coles Collection, Mrs. Lewis Ballantyne and the Bequest of Louis Bamberger 88.225 © Estate of Beauford Delaney, courtesy of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court-Appointed Administrator.

The Newark Museum is known for its very early and sustained support of African-American art and folk and self-taught art; Modern Heroics draws from both of these notable collections. Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color, expressive brushwork and a direct engagement with materials are some of the themes that Modern Heroics explores. Approximately half of the works on display—several of which are exhibited for the first time—have been created by self-taught artists. Combining works from the permanent collection with those by living artists who may not be represented at the Museum allows us to bring new perspectives to the permanent collection. This process of exhibiting and collecting in tandem has allowed the Newark Museum to grow from a collection of a single work by an African- American artist in 1929—Ossawa Tanner’s The Good Shepherd, (1922)—to a collection that today numbers more than 360 objects.

In 1931 Newark hosted an exhibition dedicated to African-American art for the first time —a group exhibition organized by the Harmon Foundation, one of the earliest supporters of African-American art. From 1944 onward, the Museum has organized numerous original group shows of African-American art, an exhibition program that serves to showcase Newark’s rich holdings and to bring new artists into the growing collection. Modern Heroics traces a lineage of expressionist strategies from Beauford Delaney’s small, vigorously painted The Burning Bush (1941) to Mickalene Thomas’s monumental collage painting Landscape with Camouflage (2012). Delaney’s work refers to the Old Testament passage in which God appears to Moses as a burning bush. The artist conveys the divinity and the drama of the story by depicting the sky, the bush and the surrounding landscape united in a surging, multilayered abstract form. Similarly, a number of other paintings in the exhibition combine conceptual and narrative approaches, relying on expressive distortions of the human form to set a mood. For instance, in Purvis Young’s description of the street life of his Miami neighborhood, the artist conveys emotion through the expressive gestures of his abstracted figures.

Norman Lewis

Norman Lewis, Carnival, 1957. Oil on canvas, 39 x 58 ¼ in. Bequest of Irene Wheeler, 2004 2004.38.1 © Estate of Norman W. Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY.

Many of the other artists represented in Modern Heroics have strong connections with Newark and with the Museum. In fact, several were either born in Newark or live and work here, including Chakaia Booker, Dmitri Wright, Kevin Sampson, Gladys Grauer and Shoshanna Weinburger. Beauford Delaney—whose 1943 gift of the drawing Portrait of a Man helped to build the collection—and Norman Lewis are two of the older generation of artists who have historical connections to the Newark Museum. In 1944 and 1971, Lewis lent several of his paintings for exhibitions at the Museum. In 2004 a group of works by Lewis entered the Museum’s permanent collection through the bequest of Irene Wheeler, two of which are on view in Modern Heroics, including the large-scale oil painting Carnival (1957).

—Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator of American Art
This article originally appeared in Dana magazine, an exclusive benefit for Museum members. For additional information or to become a member, visit


Mickalene Thomas, Landscape with Camouflage, 2012. Rhinestones, acrylic, oil and enamel on wood panel, 108 x 144 in. Purchase 2012 Helen McMahon Brady Cutting Fund 2012.22 © Mickalene Thomas and the Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Saturday, October 15, 2016, (9:30 am–3 pm)
Modern Heroics: Revisiting African-American Art at the Newark Museum

This one-day symposium will bring together scholars of African- American art and artists from the exhibition. Speakers will include Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator Emerita, Museum of Arts and Design, and Leslie King-Hammond, Graduate Dean Emeritus and Founding Director of the Center for Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Hrag Varntanian, Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic will moderate a panel discussion featuring artists from the exhibition. For more information, visit


August 15, 2016 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

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