This exhibition features over a hundred objects from the collection of John M Rivers, Jr. The Rivers family has lived continuously in Charleston since 1670, and this collection was begun in 1988, with the aim of preserving the rich history of the time span between colonial and antebellum Charleston. During that time, the prosperity of the port city led to the acquisition and creation of many beautiful articles of art and craftsmanship by the families that dwelled there. This exhibition, which encompasses this bountiful time in Charleston’s history, is exceptional not only for the quality of the private holdings of the Rivers Collection, but for the loans and cooperation from the Gibbes Museum of Art, the Historic Charleston Foundation, The Charleston Museum, and Drayton Hall. This is the largest display of objects and art from Charleston ever displayed outside of the city.
More than just a collection of pretty things, An Eye for Opulence tells the story of Charleston’s Golden Age by investigating the way that social and political–as well as economic–factors shaped the Lowcountry. Following the end of the Golden Age, industrial production and other social and economic factors led to a decline in the manufacture and purchase of Charleston’s artisan trade. One can trace the rise and fall of Charleston’s Golden Age through the beautiful objects in this exhibit. From a rare double-tier sideboard dating from the late 18th century, to an exceptional silver pitcher crafted just before the Civil War, this exhibition relives the grandeur and wealth of the historic port city.
The Rivers Collection doesn’t only look backward–exciting examples of contemporary Lowcountry work are on display as well. Fine arts are being revived in the Lowcountry, as epitomized by current works from silversmith Kaminer Haislip, artist Jonathan Green, and sculptor Grainger McKoy.
An Eye for Opulence runs from November 21st, 2015 through January 10th, 2016 at The Society of the Four Arts. More information can be found here.