- Ubaldo Vitali is one of 22 new MacArthur fellows. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Ubaldo Vitali, a fourth-generation silversmith, has won a prestigious MacArthur Foundation award. He is one of 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011. Others, from a wide range of disciplines, include an architect, a cellist, a poet, a sports medicine researcher and a radio producer. Each receives $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. The fellowships, often called “genius grants,” are underwritten by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and are intended to give recipients complete freedom to reflect, create and explore.
Vitali, 67, uses his extensive knowledge of past and modern metalworking techniques to restore historical masterworks and to create original pieces in his Maplewood, N.J., studio. He trained in the workshops of his father and grandfather in Italy before moving to the United States in 1967.
Vitali does everything needed to restore or create a piece himself, from chemical analysis and mixing raw materials, to making molds and custom building tools. He has worked for Tiffany, Steuben, Bulgari, Cartier and Movado, as well as completing commissions for Queen Elizabeth II, American presidents and Italian dignitaries.
Vitali says he is interested in the play of light off the surfaces of metals. As he told Smithsonian magazine before his exhibition at the Renwick Craft Invitational in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, “Each object reflects its own structure, its own soul, its own personality.”