Conditions for Ornament no.4 - Michael Rowe

Conditions for Ornament no.4, Michael Rowe, 1988. Image © David Cripps

Object Details

Date of making
Date of acquisition
Metalwork: welding, tinning
Sheet brass
H550mm x W520mm x D295mm
Collection Number

Maker Details

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England
Place Trained
Royal College of Art, London, MA, Metalworking, 1969-72; High Wycombe College of Art and Technology, 1965-69
Royal College Of Art, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2EU, England
Crafts Council Setting Up Grant, 1973


Michael Rowe is regarded as one of the most significant figures in contemporary applied art in Britain. An artist and designer in metal who has extended the boundaries of silversmithing, his focus has been on vessel forms.

The Conditions for Ornament series dominated Rowe's work from the late 1980s to the late '90s. It is his largest and most complex series, full of dualities and opposites. Twisting, tumbling movement is set against stasis and monumentality; precise geometric form is dressed in a sensuous surface. Works look inwards to their own conic geometry and identity as containers, and outwards to their relationship with physical space and engagement with the viewer.

His solo exhibition ‘Michael Rowe: Objects in Metal’ was held at the Crafts Council Gallery in 1978.

Read more about related loans and exhibitions

Martina Margetts

“In his long career from the 1970s to the present day, Michael Rowe stands out in UK contemporary silversmithing as the instigator of a reappraisal of this craft. His is a conceptual language of making based on mathematical and philosophical enquiry. Complex, fixed, geometric structures offer a poetic and aesthetic discourse on the typology of silverware. Rowe considers what might be ‘the conditions for ornament’ in an era of scepticism about decorative art. In all his works, which concern the surrounding space as much as the essence of form and surface, he shows us that architecture and Modernist abstraction can unite with a craftsman’s art to both confound and extend our experience of objects in everyday life.”

Martina Margetts

Martina Margetts, Senior Tutor, Critical & Historical Studies, Royal College of Art, London

From the Archive

Crafts Council Accession Record Card

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