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Sterckshof Silver Museum (near Antwerp) presents "WIENER WERKSTATTE SILVER and BELGIAN SILVER DESIG"  14.9 –12.12.2010

This autumn Sterckshof Silver Museum turns its attention to the silver produced by the Wiener Werkstätte (1903–1932). As well as providing an overview of the characteristic Wiener Werkstätte silverware, it considers the items made specially for the intriguing Stoclet House in Brussels. The exhibition and accompanying publication trace Viennese influences on Belgian silver designs in the same period.

The Wiener Werkstätte (‘Vienna Workshops’) were founded in 1903 by architect Josef Hoffmann and painter Koloman Moser with the financial backing of art-lover Fritz Wärndorfer. What started off as a silver and metal workshop rapidly developed into a cooperative able to produce complete interior concepts. Soon typical Wiener Werkstätte products were in great demand among wealthy design enthusiasts all over Europe.

Hoffmann and Moser’s pared down designs were the height of simplicity and geometric abstraction. In 1905 Carl Otto Czeschka introduced naturalistic embellishments by way of decoration for luxury utility objects. After that, stylized heart-shaped leaf motifs dominated creative all-rounder Josef Hoffmann’s designs. With the appointment of Dagobert Peche as artistic director in 1915, frivolity came back into fashion.

The objects with their sometimes bizarre or utopian lines were made both in silver and in base metal. Traces of the manufacturing process were often the only decoration. Where decoration was added to emphasize the ingenious forms, it tended to be stylized floral motifs or colourful semiprecious stones. Of vital importance in the Wiener Werkstätte was the close cooperation between the designers and the highly competent craftsmen who enjoyed equal status.

The Wiener Werkstätte invariably served as an example for Viennese silver producers. The juxtaposition of Wiener Werkstätte items with revolutionary designs by Altenloh, Devroye, Wolfers and architect-designer Albert Van Huffel give the exhibition an extra dimension.

Sterckshof Silver Museum is presenting Wiener Werkstätte silver from private collections and museums in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

Most of it goes on show in Flanders for the first time.

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