At its exhibition space in Schloss Köpenick, the Kunstgewerbemuseum is showing a selection of some 100 electroformed sculptures from the museum’s holdings. The objects in question are 19th-century replicas of important pieces in the history of goldwork, which have undergone technical analysis and careful restoration over the past few years
In the mid-19th century, electroforming was as innovative as 3D printing is today. By way of an electro-chemical procedure, complex, three-dimensional gold objects were able to be reproduced, creating nearly identical metal copies in an electrolytic bath, and in large production runs to boot. The direct comparison between original and copy brings to light both the commonalities and the differences between them. In Vienna, from 1867 onwards, Carl Haas rose to prominence through his work at the electroforming studio of the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry, and in Berlin around 1875, it was the silverware manufacturer Vollgold & Sohn that was particularly active in this field for the Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum.
This era also saw new developments in electroforming techniques. In England, the company Elkington & Co. began producing electro-chemically gilded tableware in 1836. Shortly thereafter, the Parisian company Christofle began to work with the technique. With his commissions of monumental centrepieces for his table settings, Napoleon III sent a clear message that France had joined the ranks of the industrialised nations and could now compete with the likes of England.
This exhibition looks at technical aspects, but also at aspects related to cultural history: the electroformed sculptures are a prime example of the enthusiasm for technology and the historical consciousness of the Industrial Age, and they also played a central role in the educational models of Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum at its founding in 1867. The objective of founding the museum was to drive innovation in artistic production through the collection of historical artefacts of outstanding quality (and reproductions of the same). Even today, there are still numerous electroformed replicas in the museum’s collection that were fabricated during the museum’s early years.
This exhibition is a collaborative conservational and art-historical project, and is curated by Wibke Bornkessel, Claudia Kanowski and Lothar Lambacher.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a symposium on Thursday, June 15, and Friday, June 16, 2023, at Schloss Köpenick.
A special exhibition by the Kunstgewerbemuseum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
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Schloss Köpenick Kunstgewerbemuseum
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Kunstgewerbemuseum Schloss Köpenick
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