Marcelo Toledo has crafted everything from gifts for visiting royalty to jewellery for Broadway musicals and large sculptures.
“A whole universe in metal”
One of the first things a visitor will notice in Marcelo Toledo’s gallery in the heart of the bohemian San Telmo neighbourhood is the sheer variety of work on display – everything from cufflinks to large pieces of sculpture. The gallery is surrounded by bustling cobbled streets full of antiques shops, but although Marcelo began his career producing traditional Argentine silverwork, he has become quite an unconventional silversmith who tackles big themes as well as designing pieces for visiting royalty, Broadway musicals, and even train stations.
“It’s a whole universe in metal,” the artist says of his gallery, where some of his more abstract pieces make statements on themes such as gender violence and terrorism. “This isn’t a normal profession,” he says. “You go through different moments of creation and expression and the work evolves.”
From street craft fairs to Broadway and beyond.
It’s fitting, however, that Marcelo’s gallery is located on Plaza Dorrego, in the heart of the antiques district, since it was the memory of exploring his grandfather’s antiques shop as a child that inspired him to train as a silversmith. He began to sell his early work – traditional Argentine crafts such as mates and knives – on the artists’ fair on Caminito in La Boca when he was just 19. Before very long, he had become an expert in his trade and was being commissioned by presidency to make gifts for visiting royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and King Juan Carlos of Spain (“it’s a strong feeling to switch the TV on at night and see the president of the USA wearing a pin that you delivered the same morning,” he admits.).
His biggest break however was through his fascination with the character of Argentina’s most famous first lady Eva Perón. He undertook a mammoth project recreating Evita’s jewellery based on black and white photography and descriptions from auction notes, and his work later appeared on stage in the Evita musical on Broadway and in London’s West End. Since then, it’s seemed like anything is possible, and one of his most recent pieces was a 15-metre installation displayed in the city’s Julieta Lanteri underground metro station.
“I began working with Argentine idiosyncrasies but with a more avant garde touch – something of my own and perhaps not so gaucho-influenced, and I developed from there,” Marcelo explains. “Once I felt that I no longer had any technical restrictions and that I had the experience necessary, I began to work on more conceptual pieces and on what I wanted to communicate more than on things that have a function. I take on big themes to challenge myself and move out of my comfort zone. In the end, metal work has always been the way I communicate with the world.”