The contemporary expression of this tradition is explored through thirty-nine dramatic sculptural pieces from the V&A’s permanent collection, showcased alongside original designs and sketches. Ranging from the entirely abstract to the startlingly representative, conceptual and functional pieces by modern day masters of silver such as David Clarke, Michael Rowe, Gerald Benney and Michael Lloyd demonstrate the diverse influences from which contemporary silverwork in Britain draws inspiration – from the flowery ostentation of eighteenth century Rococo to the minimal simplicity of Scandinavian design.
“This is a unique opportunity to see masterpieces of silver from the privately assembled Gilbert Collection before the V&A’s Gilbert Galleries reopen to the public in London in November”, writes Dr Tessa Murdoch, Head of Metalwork Collections at the V&A. “The graceful silver swan epitomizes Arthur Gilbert’s taste; he collected the very best examples of historic silver from the famous London workshops of Paul de Lamerie and Paul Storr and from the most celebrated historic collections. William Beckford had his Chinese Qianlong coffee pots embellished with silver-gilt mounts in London in 1820. The Gilbert curators continue to add to this prestigious collection; their latest acquisition, a royal Christening gift presented in 1731 by King George II to his goddaughter Lady Emily Lennox, was purchased at Europe’s most famous art fair, TEFAF, Maastricht, 2014.”
Ben Chiesa is the curator of Liang Yi Museum, an institution dedicated to promoting design, craftsmanship and heritage in Hong Kong. Since joining the museum last year, he has worked on Scholars and Debutantes: A Contrast of Aesthetic and Opulent Luxuries as well as the newly opened Masterpieces of British Silver: Highlights from the Victoria and Albert Museum. He received his MA in art and archaeology from University College London in 2010.
Ben previously served as curator of cross-cultural art at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. His past exhibitions include China Mania! The Global Passion for Porcelain, 800-1900 and Auspicious Designs: Batik for Peranakan Altars. He co-authored several of the museum's major publications, including Enlightened Ways: Buddhist Art from Thailand and a catalogue accompanying Auspicious Designs. His research focuses on Chinese and Japanese furniture and decorative art made for export from the sixteenth to nineteenth century.