Stuart Silver, the designer of the Museum of Blockbusters, dies at 84


Stuart Silver, who as inventive design director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1960s and ’70s transformed the presentation of art into a gas-inducing style of theatre, giving the permanent institution wide appeal and sweeping changes in style and spirit Happened. The Museum of Exhibitions, died May 6 in Manhattan. He was 84 years old.

The reason for this was complications from bone marrow cancer, said his daughter, Leslie Silver.

Mr Silver’s self-described “dramatic technique” and the philosophy he suggested – “that a museum was a place of pleasure, that even a spectacle could prosper,” as he kept it – The Met featured an entire era.

The driving force and main propagator behind the new approach was Thomas Howing, who became the museum’s seventh director in its history in 1967.

“I brought the ‘Blockbuster’ exhibit for the season,” wrote Mr. Hoving “Dancing mummies” His 1993 book about running the museum, “But designer Stuart Silver brought them to life.”

Mr Silver created his most popular design for the final blockbuster show, “Treasures of Tutankhamun”, which opened in December 1978 and ran until the following April. He put visitors in a position to search for archaeologists. He started by climbing a ladder, which leads into a picture mural The gloomy entrance of King Tut’s tomb in Egypt. The first gallery was bathed in darkness, recreating a secret atmosphere. Each item in the show appeared in the order in which it was removed from the tomb.

This show gave The Times Called “Tut fever.” Tickets sold out a few weeks before they were opened to the general public.

Mr. Howing took over the Met with a mandate to revive what he did Called The “dying” culture of the museum. His first exhibition, “In the Presence of Kings”, dealt with royal artwork from around the world and from time to time, and Mr. Howing wanted an attractive advertisement for it: a purple banner with gold letters in the foreground of the museum.

“do not expect” to me To join this obscene circus,” said Constantine Ritzky, who was in charge of the design at the time, according to Mr. Hoving’s book. “I leave!”

Mr. Howing asked his secretary to be second in command in the design department. He said that there was no one else in command. “Send anyone!” He replied.

Mr Silver, a 29-year-old whose job it was to make signs and posters for the museum, appeared in sneakers and a dirty gray smock. Mr. Howing asked him to design the show “Kings”.

Four days later, Mr. Silver returned to Mr. Howing’s office, wearing pressed chinos and a tie and carrying a dollhouse-like model. He had recreated paintings with paper cutouts, rendered sculptures in Styrofoam and invented a set of rectangular plexiglass cases that could be lit and suspended from the ceiling, he told Mr Hoving, of the sun. Shine in the exhibition hall like rays.

Mr. Silver didn’t just design the show; He even reorganized it. Now each room had a theme – the royal banquet, the royal hunt.

“I almost hugged him,” recalled Mr. Howing. “The design was grand, yet clean, with enough drama and naps to appeal to a larger public.”

When “Kings” Opened, Times Art Critic John Kennedy wrote That Mr. Howing “couldn’t have started better,” crediting the show with “depth” and “genius” and adding, “Stuart Silver’s setting is a triumph.”

Mr. Howing increased the number of special exhibitions from about half a dozen to about 50. In addition to “Kings” and “Tutankhamun”, he and Mr. Silver collaborated on “The Great Age of Fresco” (1968), which in its first month brought 180,000 views to the delicate artworks of Piero della Francesca and Giotto imported from Italy. Attracted more visitors. Another major draw in 1970 was “The Year 1200”, which featured nearly 300 items loaned by 16 countries and caused “unintentional joy of excitement” to a specific audience, in The Times. Reported.

“The visitors gasped as they entered the gallery,” wrote Mr. Hoving.

As a designer, Mr. Silver thought in cinematic terms – the pacing, the installation shot, the close-up. He used a thematic shift for direct traffic and a change in color to indicate lighting. For “The Great Age of Fresco”, he added touches of stage design, placing the artwork under an arrangement of fabrics. Remembered that Vault of Florentine Churches.

He described his work as realizing a curator’s vision.

“Asking a curator to design an exhibition is like asking an author to illustrate his work,” he said The New York Times Magazine in 1983.

Stuart Martin Silver was born on May 4, 1937, in New York City. His father, Hyman, was a garment factory supervisor, and his mother, Miriam (Bornstein) Silver, was a part-time saleswoman at Stern’s department store in midtown Manhattan.

Stuart grew up in the Inwood section of Manhattan near the Cloisters, the medieval art and architecture branch of the Met. He used to play hookah from school and used to participate in classical music concerts there.

He enlisted in the army in 1956 and served as a disc jockey at a military radio station in South Korea. He was honorably discharged in 1958.

He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design from Pratt Institute in 1960 and then began a series of professional design jobs in Manhattan. In a small studio designing paperback book covers, he befriended a colleague, Elizabeth Munson. They married in 1962.

Mr Silver left the Met in 1978 and became Vice President of furniture designer Knoll. In 1988, he died on his own and formed Stuart Silver & Associates. The company served as a designer or co-designer for museums and fairs, including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California.

In addition to his daughter Leslie, Mr. Silver, who died in hospital and lived in Scarsdale, NY, is survived by his wife; two other daughters, Jessica and Lauren Silver; a sister, Claire Howard; and a granddaughter.

When Mr Silver left the Met, The Times ran Profile Among those who said his “innovative techniques” “revolutionized museum exhibitions across the country.”

In an interview, Philippe di Montebello, the Met’s director from 1977 to 2008, agreed with that assessment.

“The whole drama, the whole theatricality of the special exhibitions, was new in what Stuart Silver brought,” said Mr. di Montebello. “He can be called a pioneer in the field of museum exhibition design.”



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