For millennia, gold’s warm glow, resistance to corrosion, and rarity have made it a preferred material for objects meant to convey prestige, authority, or devotion. Drawing on the Yale University Art Gallery’s extraordinary holdings of American gold and augmented by paintings, photographs, and other works of art, Gold in America: Artistry, Memory, Power is the first exhibition since 1963 to survey the role of gold in American art and culture. The exhibition considers a wide range of objects spanning more than 400 years, such as early colonial betrothal and mourning rings; a sumptuous Gilded Age coffee service by luxury retailer Tiffany and Company; rare coins made from ore mined during the Gold Rush; a pair of elaborate shoe buckles from the late 18th century that speaks to the wealth derived from the slave trade in the Caribbean; and works by contemporary artists who explore the medium’s historical associations as well as the environmental and human costs of its extraction from the earth. With over 70 examples of gold and related material, Gold in America demonstrates our nation’s longtime fascination with this gleaming metal.
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Exhibition made possible by the Friends of American Arts at Yale Exhibition Fund and the Rosalee and David McCullough Family Fund. Organized by John Stuart Gordon, the Benjamin Attmore Hewitt Curator of American Decorative Arts.