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FREE Admission
Liberty Way, Sunderland, SR6 0GL

Open Daily 10:00 - 17:00 Call: 0191 515 5555

Separator National Glass Centre is part of the University of Sunderland

Spectacles exhibition gets the Goldsmith seal of approval

Released: Tuesday 21st January 2014 at 11:24

ONE of the world’s most iconic spectacle designers has unveiled a major exhibition at National Glass Centre featuring eyewear created by three generations of his family and photographic works of the famous faces who wore them.


Oliver Goldsmith travelled to Sunderland from his London base to officially launch the exhibition which features spectacle designs that have enthralled generations, charting the progression of the company over three generations of ‘Oliver’s’, who steered the company into becoming one of the most successful British spectacle designers of the mid-20th century.

Oliver Goldsmith Ltd Spectacles and Sunglasses are synonymous with style and celebrity. Thanks to their innovative designs and dedication to quality, their frames became trend setters in the latter half of the 20th Century. Working with fashion houses like Dior and Givenchy, Oliver Goldsmith spectacles and sunglasses graced the faces of some of the most influential personalities to impact fashion trends of the day, from Princess Diana,  Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly Princess of Monaco to Michael Caine and Peter Sellers. 

Oliver said: “When I received the call to say National Glass Centre was interested in an exhibition of my glasses, I was more than happy to collaborate. I have an archive of over 600 designs, so I was over the moon to have them on display.

“We’ve worked towards this for almost two years and selected some of the most iconic designs for the exhibition, especially the ones I have created for famous people, and this is what of course will attract attention for visitors. But for me personally I am most pleased that this exhibition shows the history of our company from 1926 through to the present.”

Awareness of the potential of spectacle frames as a fashion accessory, as opposed to a potentially embarrassing medical necessity, grew rapidly from the early 20th century. Buoyed by innovative new technology, improving manufacturing techniques, the introduction of the National Health Service here in Britain, and the craze of 'the celebrity', spectacles came to be considered as an increasingly accessible fashion must have.

As the popularity of spectacles grew the company Oliver Goldsmith Ltd. was established as a family run business designing and manufacturing spectacle frames. With innovative design and integrated high quality Oliver Goldsmith became a fashion leader working with Dior, Givenchy and British designer Teddy Tingling from the 1950s.

“When I arrived at National Glass Centre and saw this exhibition for the first time I was blown away”, said Oliver. “I never thought anyone would do such a wonderful exhibition for me, and will certainly be boasting about it through social media.

“I hope visitors get a chance to see what my family’s company has created over the years, and to feel that they can now go and choose glasses at the optician based on what they like, always choose the shape you like and feel comfortable wearing and look upon it as face jewellery for women and for men face furniture for men.

“My favourite designs were on Michael Caine, the Consul, which he wore for film The Ipcress File, and the Vice Consul which Peter Sellers wore outside of his film work.”

Oliver added:  “My father was the instigator of fashion eyewear after the Second World War. He wanted to market his designs and so he created way-out designs  and took them to Vogue who couldn’t wait to publish them,  initially they sold in a limited number because they were quite way-out but when I began designing in the Swinging 60s my father had certainly become a fashion item.”

Julia Stephenson, Head of Arts at National Glass Centre, said: “To create this exhibition, we wanted to look at that idea of chronology and how fashion design had moved forward, by looking at spectacle frames.  We split the exhibition into groups of decades and also the three generations of the Goldsmith family, and we worked with an exhibition designer. We decided to separate the gallery using colour, which tries to grasps the atmosphere of the various decades, the colour changes as you walk around  go round, as do the designs and really reflect the decades that they are from.

“I think people will be attracted to the show because of the names of the clients, they will enjoy it because everyone knows about spectacles, whether they are for helping your vision or for sunglasses, but I also hope they will go away having enjoyed the quality of design and the quality of production.”


Notes to Editors

Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear

National Glass Centre

National Glass Centre at the University of Sunderland reopened its doors on 29 June 2013 following an ambitious £2.3m redevelopment programme.

The Centre is one of the UK’s leading institutions for contemporary glass, celebrating Sunderland’s unique glass-making heritage, presenting a rich temporary exhibition programme and facilitating international level research in new approaches to glass and ceramics.

To achieve this vision, National Glass Centre successfully attracted £750,000 from Arts Council England’s Large Capital Programme, £250,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £100,000 from the Sir James Knott Trust and £50,000 from the Foyle Foundation. This, coupled with a significant investment from the University of Sunderland, illustrates a significant commitment to the development of the arts in the City of Sunderland.

This investment has led to the doubling in size and extensive modernisation of the Centre’s exhibition and learning studios, better meeting the needs of the visitor, schools and groups. The Centre’s new main gallery now meets nationally recognised standards for environmental conditioning and security.

The redevelopment sees a complete overhaul of the Centre’s exhibition spaces which will enable it to present work by the highest calibre artists and to work in partnership with international museums and galleries. The Centre will host three major exhibitions annually and up to 15 smaller scale exhibitions in the new gallery spaces. It will also have a ‘rotating museum’ which will present a selection of high profile glass and ceramics collections on a yearly basis.

National Glass Centre is Open Daily: 10.00 – 17.00
Free Admission
Free Visitor Parking



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0191 515 5518

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Tony Kerr
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T 0191 515 5555, F 0191 515 5556
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