Gilt Trip: The Syroco Story

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gold and white flower decoration with words "Gilt Trip" above it

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November 1 - December 15, 2022

The stately adornments favored by Louis the XIV must certainly be the apex of gilded baroque style. These haughty expressions of opulence are favored even today by the nouveau riche, former presidents and corporate entities, their use conveying little, save for the ability to express a façade of financial prowess. The French rococo aesthetic reverberates in the modern home décor of the middling classes as well; styles once associated with aristocracy become diluted and mutated into inexpensive and accessible decorative elements.

The term kitsch has fallen out of favor in recent decades due to its classist connotations. But it is not a wholly inaccurate description of the flamboyant decoration produced by companies such as Syroco and Dart Industries. To deem décor of this ilk kitsch is perhaps unfair; if their original intent was to emulate class, in the 21st century their display serves as sarcastic snub to pretentiousness.

Founded in 1890 by Polish immigrant Adolph Holstein, the Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) would eventually become a national icon, a reflection of the entrepreneurial spirit of Syracuse, New York. Before bankruptcy dissolved the company in 2007, the manufacturing company churned out a seemingly endless variety of household furnishings, from mirrors to wall peacocks.

This exhibit explores the expressions of Syroco and its contemporaries, creators of fine faux wood and polymer decoration for the thrifty-minded. This exhibit, curated by Bird Library’s own Reference and User Experience Librarian Natalie LoRusso and from her personal collection, explores the history and aesthetics of this seminal local institution.