You are here

Silver in the Spotlight at San Francisco Airport Museums



San Francisco


A Global Collection for a Global Audience
A Century of Silver and Metalwork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collection at San Francisco International Airport
SAN FRANCISCO – Busy travelers rushing through the new Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport stop in their tracks, encountering an unusual sight: amidst the predictable assortment of restaurants and shops, an exhibit of exquisite silver and metalwork from around the globe.  The items on display range from bronze candlesticks to silver tea and coffee services; all are from the 20th century, functional, and anything but your stereotypical antique silver.
The exhibit in question is A Century of Silver and Metalwork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collectionorganized by the San Francisco Airport Museums. A renowned interior architect, Margo Grant Walsh first began collecting silver as a side hobby in 1981. Applying her exacting eye for design to seek out objects of exceptional form and functionality, Grant Walsh has created an impressive collection of over 800 lots that reads like a Who’s Who of 20th century silver and metalwork masters from around the globe - many of whom were relatively unknown when she first began acquiring their pieces.
Over the past six years, the collection has been featured in exhibitions at the Portland Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and a previous exhibition at the San Francisco Airport Museums in 2007. With increased interest in silver and gold as investments and sharply rising silver prices, the collection has turned out to be not only a brilliant curatorial investment, but also a sound financial one.
The current exhibit at San Francisco International Airport features more than one hundred objects from Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the United States, Mexico and other countries. Ranging in style from English Arts and Crafts to Native American, from Art Nouveau to Postmodern, the items on display are united by their extraordinary form and craftsmanship and serve to illustrate Grant Walsh’s conviction that great design knows no geographical or historical borders. For a collection with such an international focus, SFO is a perfectly suited venue, allowing thousands of globe-trotters daily to appreciate this carefully curated exhibit.
Seen together, the objects clearly show the global spread of artistic influences which took place throughout the twentieth century. Glasgow-born Christopher Dresser, one of the first modernist designers, was inspired by his observations as a botanist and visits to Japan to conclude that beauty could stem from simplicity of form and function rather than decoration. Alongside Dresser, increasing numbers of turn-of-the-century European designers rejected the historicism of their national arts and asserted new styles.  Waves of mass immigration from Europe to America in the first half of the 20th century took these influences to U.S. soil, as seen in works by Peer Smed for Tiffany and Co. and Julius Randahl for the Kalo Shop. A contemporary instance of such international cross-pollination is a remarkable tea and coffee service created in 2003 by Japanese architects Kazu Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (designers of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York) for the Italian firm Alessi. The parallels between work by artists of different countries and periods are often astounding.  For example, striking similarities can be seen in the design of salad servers made by Tiffany & Company and Navajo silversmiths when displayed side-to-side, as they are here.
Sejima and Nishizawa are not the only architects whose silver and metalwork is featured in the collection. Many others, such as Christopher Dresser, Archibald Knox and William Spratling, either studied or practiced architecture – a connection Grant Walsh was thrilled to discover. Her own career in interior architecture spanned 43 years, culminating in her vice chairmanship of Gensler, one of the world’s leading architecture and design firms, and a slew of awards and recognitions.
A Century of Silver and Metalwork from the Margo Grant Walsh Collection is located beyond security screening in the new Terminal 2, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport.  The  exhibition  is on view to Terminal 2 ticketed passengers from April 14 to October 2, 2011.
# # #
Margo Grant Walsh
Margo Grant Walsh was born on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana and raised in North Dakota and Oregon. Her career as an interior architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in San Francisco and then at Gensler  garnered numerous awards and accolades. She pioneered the discipline for women and greatly influenced how the profession is defined today. Grant Walsh’s commitment to design inspired her to collect fine crafts during her forty-three-year career and her travels abroad. Grant Walsh resigned in 2004 and now devotes her time and energy to the research and acquisition of 20th century silver and metalwork. Although her early focus was on Arts and Crafts objects from the United States and the United Kingdom, the Margo Grant Walsh Collection now includes silver and metalwork by more than 130 artisans from throughout the world. The collection has been featured in five exhibitions in the last six years, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and a previous exhibition at SFO Museum in 2007. Although Grant Walsh’s primary residence is in New York, she maintains a familial connection to Portland, Oregon. In 2002, she donated more than 250 pieces of American and English silver and metalwork to the Portland Art Museum, several of which were generously loaned to SFO Museum for this exhibition.
San Francisco Airport Museums
SFO Museum program was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public.  The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Association of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport. Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation. For more information, please visit .
About San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop links with more than 31 international points on 29 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with more than 69 cities in the U.S. on 20 domestic airlines. For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit SFO was voted “North America’s Best Airport” in 2010 by passengers for its modern and efficient facilities and its multi-modal transportation systems.
# # #



Contact Information: