Regarded as a leading figure in contemporary studio metal, Michael's radical approach laid the foundations for an expanded practice in the crafts.
Michael was born in 1948 and studied at High Wycombe College of Technology and Art and the Royal College of Art. He was a visiting lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts from 1976 to 1982 and at Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education from 1973 to 1984. Michael has been teaching at the Royal College of Art since 1978, first as a Visiting Lecturer and then as Tutor in 1980; from 1984 he has been Senior Tutor in Jewellery & Metal. In 1987 he was made a Fellow.
Rowe set up studio in south London in 1972 and is represented by Gallery S O, London and Solothun. Solo exhibitions include Michael Rowe: Objects in Metal, Crafts Council Gallery, London, 1978; Michael Rowe: Retrospective, Museem het Princessehof, Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 1988; Conditions for Ornament, Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 1988; and The Eloquent Vessel: Bunck/Foster/Rowe, Museum fur Angewandte Kunst, Koln, Germany. A major retrospective Michael Rowe was presented at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2003–4, touring to Manchester Art Gallery, The City Gallery, Leicester and Aberdeen Art Gallery.
Rowe is the recipient of two honorary doctorates: Buckinghamshire New University, 2004 and Hasselt University, Limburg, Belgium, 2010.
He is currently contributing to Crafts Lives, part of the National Life Stories oral history project at the British Library, London.
Objects are seen as evolving, conceptually and spatially, in a viewer/context continuum. The work explores the morphology of generic silver and metalwork forms, particularly containers, whose geometries – cube, sphere, cylinder, cone, ellipse etc. are opened up and seen contextually in relation to the geometry of interiors, the space of architecture.
The working process celebrates the fact that two kinds of geometry operate in the human mind; the logical, abstract space of Cartesian geometry and the experiential 'geometry' of space perception and visual orientation, the emotive space of the viewing subject. Michael is interested in exploring ways in which form-giving is achieved in the tension between these two polarities and the relation they have to the invasion of other kinds of thematic material.
Commissions since 2006
MIMA: permanent installation for the new Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, 2006
The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths: silver jug for the Permanent Collection, 2006
Crafts Council, London: SUBJECTivity/OBJECThood 3, a multi-part silver work for the permanent collection, 2007. This work looks at the notion of commissioning craft objects for collections, treating the outcome as an intervention rather than a simple addition to the collection.
New College, Oxford: silver bowl for the permanent collection, 2010
Cornwall Heartlands, UNESCO World Heritage Site: permanent installation ‘Mineral Wall’, 2011, This artwork takes as its subject the 4,000 year old history of tin mining in Cornwall. The commission was part of an extensive social and cultural regeneration programme in Cornwall. The Heartlands project was unique in receiving Big Lottery ‘Living Landmarks’ funding with additional funding from Convergence and European Regional and Social Development Funds.
Current research into casting metal attracted funding from the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation to sponsor research. With Hans Stofer, J&M Head of Programme, Rowe travelled to Japan to research the ancient craft of cast iron ‘tetsubin’ tea kettle production, 2017.
Selected exhibitions since 2008
De Main á Main. MUDAC – Museum of Contemporary Art, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2008, catalogue. Exhibition documenting the international influential of significant teachers in the field of contemporary jewellery and metal
Raising the Bar – influential voices in metal. Dovecot, Edinburgh. Ruthin Craft Centre Gallery and touring to MIMA Middlesbrough. 2008/9, catalogue
Age of Experience. Ruthin Craft Centre Gallery, Ruthin and touring to Dovecot, Edinburgh and Harley Gallery, Nottingham. 2009, catalogue
Three by One. Selections from Crafts Council, Crafts Study Centre & British Council’s Collections of Post World War Two Crafts. Crafts Study Centre. Farnham. 2009, catalogue
Collect 2009 represented by Galerie SO. Saatchi Gallery, London. 2009, catalogue
Talking Hands – International spectrum of Contemporary Metalwork. Museum of Art at Seoul National University. 2009, catalogue
Still Life. Galerie Sofie Lachaert. Tielrode, Belgium, 2009
Multiples. Gallery S O, London and Galerie S O. Solothurn, Switzerland. Rowe showed a new multiple 10 Standard Cornfields, 2011
SOFA New York, represented by Gallery S O, 2011
Mindful of Silver. Goldsmiths Hall. London, 2011. Rowe showed a new installation work Wry Vita, 2010
40:40. Forty Objects for Forty Years. Crafts Council 40th Anniversary on-view online exhibition, 2011
Collect 2012, Saatchi Gallery London, represented by Gallery S O, London, 2012
The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art. Royal College of Art, London. 2012
Design Days Dubai, represented by Gallery S O/Crafts Council, 2013
Collect 2013, Saatchi Gallery, represented by Gallery S O, London, 2013
Sconfinamenti/Digressions: contemporary jewellery and sculpture. Piano Nobile dello Stabilimento Pedrocchi, Padova. 2013, catalogue
The Silversmith’s Art, Made in Britain Today. Goldsmiths Company. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2015, catalogue
The First Decade Project : Crafts Council Collection 1972 - 82. On-line exhibition, Crafts Council, London [collections.craftscouncil.org.uk/first-decade ] 2015
ArtGenève, Salon d’Art. Geneva. Represented by Gallery S O, 2016
Masterpieces of British Silver: Highlights from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Liang Yi Museum, Hong Kong, 2016, catalogue
Silver : Light and Shade. The Holburne Museum, Bath, 2016, catalogue
Golden Ring of Honour, Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst in Germany 2002.
Michael was the first Briton to receive this award, widely regarded as the highest honour in the world of gold and silversmithing art.
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Michael Rowe. Martina Margetts and Richard Hill, Lund Humphries, London, 2003. This monograph was published to accompany the retrospective exhibition Michael Rowe presented at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and touring in 2003-4.
Coloration et Patine des Métaux. Éditions Vial. 2014. French translation [abridged] of The Colouring, Bronzing and Patination of Metals. Research into the colouring and patination of metals carried out at Camberwell College of Art with Richard Hughes from 1979 to 1982 led to the publication of the book The Colouring, Bronzing and Patination of Metals in 1982 by the Crafts Council. Re-issued in 1991 by Thames and Hudson, London, and the Whitney Library of Design, Watson Guptil, New York. This book is still in print and recognised as the standard work on the subject.
Selected publications referencing Rowe’s work since 2008
Raising the Bar: influential voices in metal. Catalogue essay by Eric Turner, Curator of Metalwork at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2008
Contemporary Crafts. Imogen Racz, Berg, Oxford and New York, 2009
The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art. Glenn Adamson, Paul Thompson, Fiona McCarthy etc. Royal College of Art, London, 2012
Craft Research. volume 4 number 2: What goes around comes around ? Craft revival, the 1970s and today. Andrea Peach, 2013
Digressions and Variations on a Theme. catalogue essay by Alessia Castellani for the exhibition Sconfinamenti/Digressions: contemporary jewellery and sculpture. Piano Nobile dello Stabilimento Pedrocchi, Padova, 2013
Michael Rowe. Chapter in Seeing Things, Collected Writing on Art, Craft and Design. Alison Britton. Occasional Papers. London, 2014
Designer British Silver. John Andrew and Derek Styles. Antique Collectors Club, London, 2015
The Collection. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. New edition. Kanazawa, Japan, 2015
Quo Vadis Silver Art ?. Chapter focussing on work by Michael Rowe in the collection of Die Neue Sammlung, by Corinna Rösner, Chief Curator and Deputy Director, Die Neue Sammlung, International Design Museum, Munich. In Zilver Kunst in Nederland. Sandra van Berkum. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle, 2016
Contemporary Silver in the British National Collection. Catalogue essay by Eric Turner, Curator, Victoria & Albert Museum for the exhibition Masterpieces of British Silver: Highlights from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Liang Yi Museum, Hong Kong, 2016
Virtual Gallery of Contemporary Fine Metalwork. Ken Quickenden. online text 2007, second edition due for publication 2017