Airgeadóir Four Centuries of Cork Silver and Gold
John Bowen – The Bowen Group
New exhibition space of the Crawford Municipal Gallery, Cork.
Cork’s tenure as European Capital of Culture has provided the inspiration for the worlds first gallery exhibition dedicated to the work of the silversmiths and goldsmiths of Cork city and county. The result is “Airgeadoir” a display of four centuries of Cork Silver and Gold, which ran at the Exhibition Space of the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery.
The initial brief for the project was to create sixteen themed displays to exhibit over two hundred and fifty artefacts of Cork silver and gold dating from as far back as the sixteenth century. The brief stipulated that the exhibition would be temporary and be capable of being easily transported yet robust enough to provide the security required to protect these priceless artefacts. The entire exhibition installation needed to be completed on site within three days. The “plug and play” exhibition concept was created !
The architects desire was to create something different, an alternative to the standard methods of presenting silver, a mood enhancing space, using the physical layout of the showcases, sensitive lighting, information panels with scaffolding supports, and the punctuation of context rich video installations. The contradiction / relationship / interplay between the precious antique silver and gold, meticulously polished and treasured and the stark industrialized environment of the forty three mild steel showcases that envelop the artefacts was an integral part of exhibition design. Scaffolding frames supporting the graphic display panels completed the effect. Allowing the steel to remain in its raw state highlighted the metals qualities, strangely, through the impurities that manifested – welds, rust, oil marks, finger prints and reinforced the contrast with the treasure displayed within.