David Bacharach: Celebrating 53 Years of Craft Exhibition

David Bacharach (L) accepts the Rolex Prize from Steven Wismer at the 1986 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.

In 2015, metalsmith David Bacharach will complete his 53rd year showcasing his work. We asked him to share some of his recollections about a life in craft:

My first time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show was when the exhibition was still located in the old West Side Armory. I was always comfortable in the knowledge that the Philadelphia show, even early on, attracted viewers who appreciated and understood the work, even if that work did not always allow neat categorization. Knowing this, I would inevitably take the opportunity when exhibiting in Philadelphia to introduce experimental ideas including some of my earliest woven metal work works, my first purely sculptural works and my first large format wall sculptures.

On the occasion of the final Craft Show at the Armory, I plaited a 6' tall, slender sculptural form. As soon as the show opened I received favorable comments on it and quickly sold the new work. Then, during the quiet time that comes to every show around 4 p.m., a well dressed gentleman approached me. He stood, hands behind his back, carefully examining the slender sculpture. After a few moments he asked "What precisely is the function of this metal work? Puzzled, I replied, "What do you mean?” He stated that to be craft "an object has to function." Art could of course be nonfunctional, he explained, but not craft.

Considering the question, the gentleman's statement of belief, and wishing not to engage in a philosophical discussion on the nature of art and craft I replied, “it's a clothes rack.” In my home most vertical objects inevitably support the odd coat or hat so I felt this was a reasonably appropriate, honest explanation. The gentleman nodded and began casually conversing with the artist in the next booth.

Moments later, he turned back to me and suggested, "you could use a few more rods to hang your coats from.” I thanked him for his suggestion and we nodded our goodbyes. Several years later, I was offered a commission to design and fabricate several coat racks for a new restaurant. I recalled this conversation and decided to plait them of copper, with extra rods, of course.

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