Celestial Centerpiece

MAKER:
Designer

Robert J. King ( American, 1917 - 2014 )


Manufacturer

International Silver Company ( American, 1898 )


Maker

Albert G. Roy ( American )

DATE:
1964
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General Description

Glittering with 133 gemstones mounted on stems radiating from a starburst cluster, the Celestial Centerpiece was exhibited as one of the triumphs of the International Silver Company at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Designer Robert J. King conceived the work as a lavish homage to the space race. International's display featured an otherworldly "Moon Room," which included this centerpiece and other specially made works by International's designers. By 1964 silver displays at world's fairs had all but vanished, making the Celestial Centerpiece both an iconic example of Space Age design and one of the last great American silver exposition objects of the 20th century. In 1965 it was featured on the cover of International's annual report, lauded as the firm's leading achievement in modern silver design.

Since the mid-19th century, major silver manufacturers traditionally presented a selection of unique and highly fashionable articles at such fairs, but by the 1960s, challenges to the American silver market made International's contribution unusual. Indeed, no other American silver manufacturers participated in the 1964 Fair, marking the Moon Room as one of the last, and most creative installations of its type. Inspired by the country's new obsession with space exploration, a key theme of several of the Fair's exhibits, the fantastical dining room setting included a suspended table and chairs of clear plastic set against dark walls twinkling with tiny lights suggesting stars and galaxies. Over a dozen unique examples of hollowware were installed within the room, two of which are currently in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection: King's Moon Room carafe (2002.29.101.A-B) and Stuart Young's Lunar coffee service (2002.29.80.1.A-B, 2002.29.80.2, 2002.29.80.3.A-B).

Few designs so glamorously capture the spirit of the space age of the 1960s more than the majestic Celestial Centerpiece. Embodying luxury, modernity, and unbridled optimism in the face of a rapidly changing world, and a diminishing market for silverware, the sapphire-studded centerpiece stands as one of the last truly iconic silver objects made to showcase America's forward-looking confidence.

Adapted from

  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, 2004.

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 297.

Web Resources

  • Washington Post
    Read about the Celestial Centerpiece and its symbolism of the diminishing role of silver in the twentieth century.

  • Queens Library
    See a picture of International Silver's 'Moon Room' featuring the futuristic table setting with the Celestial Centerpiece inside the Pavilion of American Interiors at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.

  • Connecticut Explored
    Read about International Silver Company, manufacturer of the Celestial Centerpiece.