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Show Your Metal Exhibition Opens 13th June 2024

Published: 6th June 2024

Show Your Metal Exhibition Opens 13th June 2024

Show Your Metal - 13 June – 29 September 2024

Metal frames our world. From technology and transport to jewellery, art and architecture, its applications are countless and varied. Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of The Company of Cutler’s in Hallamshire, Show Your Metal, a major new exhibition at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, celebrates the marvel of the material in all its forms and its longstanding connection with the city.

Opening on Thursday 13 June, Show Your Metal will showcase over 100 objects drawn from Sheffield’s Designated Metalwork Collection, recognising the pioneering advances that earned the city a global reputation. These collection highlights will go on display alongside a number of significant loans, including artist Cornelia Parker’s spectacular large-scale installation, Rorschach (Endless Column III) and a striking replica of a stainless steel dress made by British Steel in the 1960s.

Sheffield’s metalworking heritage dates back to the 12th century. In the years that followed, the city has been home to a multitude of internationally significant developments and innovation.

Benjamin Huntsman’s invention of crucible steel in 1742 greatly increased the quality of production within Britain, contributing to the Industrial Revolution, and in 1858 The Bessemer process became the first inexpensive means of mass production. The emergence of Stainless Steel in 1913 changed the world, impacting industry, construction, transportation and domestic products.

Show Your Metal will consider the environmental implications of how we extract metals from the earth, offering visitors an opportunity to reflect on how production may be made more sustainable for future generations. 

The exhibition also celebrates the spectacle of metal in the hands of artists through dazzling displays of creativity, craft and skill, considering the cultural and economic value we attach to this endlessly adaptable material. The displays feature further works by Cornelia Parker, as well as work by contemporary artists Joseph Cutts, Mark Firth, Otobong Nkanga and Bridget Smith. The skills of makers and craftspeople working in the city today shine, with showcased pieces by Stephen Cocker, Maria Hanson, Grace Horne, Shinta Nakajima, Brett Payne and more.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Cornelia Parker, Rorschach (Endless Column III), 2016: One of Britain’s most celebrated artists, Parker works across sculpture, installation, embroidery, drawing, photography and film to investigate processes of transformation and suspension and to explore the times in which we live. This striking installation includes 14 silver-plated objects crushed by 250 tonne industrial press.
  • Otobong Nkanga, Solid Maneuvers, 2015: Solid Maneuvers is a manifestation of Nkanga’s encounters with an area devastated by mining in Namibia known as ‘Green Hill’, which, since 1875, has seen its mineral-rich soil hollowed out, leaving a scar in the landscape.
  • Steel specimens used by Harry Brearley: Harry Brearley was born in Sheffield in 1871, the son of a steel melter. On 13 August 1913, Brearley created steel with 12.8% chromium and 0.24% carbon, which is thought to be the first ever Stainless Steel.
  • Shinta Nakajima, Acanthus VII, 2023: Japanese-born Shinta Nakajima is an award-winning silversmith, living and working in Sheffield. He seeks to integrate the stability of metal with the transient beauty of plants, and focuses on seeds and fruits in their symbolism as vessels of life.
  • Deli Pillar –  Model of Iron Pillar in Delhi, Made of Hecla Steel at Hadfields Limited, Sheffield: Hadfields Limited was a British manufacturer of special steels, in particular manganese alloys (which were discovered by the founder's son and often known as Hadfield steel) and the manufacture of steel castings. The company had very heavy involvement in the armaments industry, in the production of shells and armour plate steel. The model is a replica of the seven-meter Delhi Pillar, which was built in the 5th century from a non-corrodible steel The replica was made to commemorate Hadfield’s creation of manganese steel which was also non-corrodible.
  • Chris Knight, Sketch on a bowl, 2013: Often working on the boundaries between art, craft and design, Chris Knight's pieces range from domestic, ecclesiastical and sporting silverware to architectural metalwork and public art. This 2013 work is part of the city’s internationally significant Designated Metalwork Collection.

Show Your Metal is generously supported by Gold exhibition sponsor, Forged Solutions Group. At the heart of advanced manufacturing industries for more than 100 years, they provide high integrity forgings for the world’s most demanding applications.

Emma Paragreen, Curator of Metalwork and Industry at Sheffield Museums said:

‘Metal is part of our lives is so many ways, it’s a material that has both endless uses and incredible beauty. It’s also absolutely entwined with Sheffield’s history, so it’s fitting to be celebrating it and all its many applications here at the Millennium Gallery. We’re hugely grateful to our sponsors, in particular our Gold Sponsor, Forged Solutions Group, for their support to make the exhibition possible.’

Ben McIvor, President at Forged Solutions Group said:

"At Forged Solutions Group, we are honoured to support the 'Show Your Metal' exhibition as Gold Sponsors. This exhibition is a perfect opportunity to celebrate Sheffield's historic and ongoing contributions to the metalworking industry. Our partnership with Sheffield Museums highlights our dedication to preserving the city's rich industrial legacy and inspiring the next generation of innovators in metallurgy."

Show Your Metal is also supported by Silver Sponsors, Sheffield Assay Office and The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, and Bronze Sponsors, ICD Europe, Rotabroach, Outokumpu, Sheffield Forgemasters, and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

Show Your Metal opens at Millennium Gallery on Thursday 13 June and continues until Sunday 29 September 2024 – entry to the exhibition is free, donations welcome.

Images (L-R) 
Rachael Colley, Basket brooch, 2024. Image © Rachael Colley / Jules Lister
Shinta Nakajima, Acanthus VII, 2023, Britannia Silver and Copper, Shinta Nakajima. Purchase supported by the Contemporary Arts Society. Photo © Shinta Nakajima
Silver Fox Stainless Steels, 1950-1960s. Image © Sheffield Museums

The Sheffield Assay Office was established in 1773, under an Act of Parliament and today the company assays and hallmarks the precious metals - silver, gold, platinum and palladium. Sheffield Assay Office is one of only four UK assay offices who all work to uphold the Hallmarking Act of 1973 and continue to ensure consumer protection for customers purchasing precious metals.

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