Preview Night at the Fair
The description of the Fair sounded a little daunting—5 centuries of artifacts from “30 top-tier vetted Galleries, Private Dealers, and Artists”—but I can assure you there was no museum fatigue as I worked my way around the New York City Ceramics and Glass Fair, chatting with dealers, artists, and arts professionals during the engaging opening reception. I was dazzled by the hundreds of examples of glass, pottery, and ceramics makers’ art–names as familiar as Minton, Delft and Baccarat alongside contemporary, practicing artists–which I previewed on January 17 throughout two floors under the beautiful roof of the classic Bohemian National Association building at 321 East 73rd Street in New York City, which is the home of the Czech Republic Consulate and a vibrant cultural center.
While the wide sweep of human history was represented in techniques, decoration, and value of these pieces, the ability to pause and converse with experts, collectors, and makers prevented any tedium and made touring the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair a great pleasure. Like a world tour plus time travel without the jet lag! While the Fair is broad in scope and offering, each exhibitor came with a reasonable number of artifacts, so moving to each next station was refreshing. As this was the preview, wine and hors d’oeuvres were served to celebrate and enhance an already excited and pleasant vibe.
Five Centuries of Creation
Artists and Art Business Professionals from United States, England, Ireland, Israel, Czech Republic, and Asia were happy to explain their exhibits, which included artifacts from nearly every continent, dating from the 17th century to today. Eclectic tastes welcome. So many exhibitors eschewed glass cases, and I appreciated the open viewing while understanding that the many fine antiques require special handling. A stylish antique Royal Flemish vase, for example, caught my eye through a glass door, and I also had the pleasure of seeing it unmediated. Pictured below, this vase features a “cut rim blackberry bead design,” manufactured by Mt. Washington Glass Company , (later the Pairpoint Corporation), New Bedford, around 1893-5.
Special “Loaner Exhibits”
Bouke de Vries whimsical peacock, fashioned of 18th century ceramic fragments will greet you as you step of the elevator on one floor. This piece is a highlight from one of the highlighted “loaner” exhibitions from Ferrin Contemporary, part of “Revive, Remix, Respond: Contemporary Ceramic Artists,” an exhibit that opens at the Frick Pittsburgh on February 16.
A chat with Alexandra Jelleberg, Associate Director of Ferrin Contemporary, led me to discover two new artists whose work I want to follow: Paul Scott, who creates new work from old fragments, crafting in the Kintsugi practice of repairing broken ceramics, healing scars with gold to make the piece more precious than before; and Mara Superior, who approaches the topic from a different perspective by making and assembling her own “old school” fragments. Her Artist’s Statement at the exhibit sponsor Ferrin Contemporary explains her work as “the reinterpretation of historical inspirations synthesized with my own visual vocabulary.” Photos of these pieces can be found at these links: Bouke de Vries and Paul Scott and Mara Superior.
A second loan exhibit concerns a remarkable find: examples of an unusual 18th century Philadelphia slipware found during excavations on the site of the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. This recovered collection numbers some 85,000 artifacts. The loan exhibit is sponsored by Ceramics in America published by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
With so many exhibits, you will see something you love. Here are some of my lingering moments:
Martyn Edgell offered a generous selection of antique pieces— what caught my eye especially were the nineteenth century whimsical, homiletically decorated pearlware dishes: “God speeds the plow”; “Industrey [sic] produces wealth.” Who could resist a bowl inscribed “Your affectionate father,” or a plate that featured your name to be uncovered after finishing your meal? Easy to channel your inner grandparent here.
A fascinating contemporary exhibit from Pascoe Gallery featured South African decorative ceramic art. The gallery features the largest U.S. selection of Ardmore Studio art featuring lively museum quality ethnic art commissioned from the Studio in Kwazulu-Natal. The intricate decorative pieces are often fashioned by a group of artists—a sculptor or two and a painter, for example.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the shiny object category. As you round one corner, you will encounter the beautiful wearable and decorative art–so at home in this building–of the Czech Republic’s Precioza. Warning: you can keep going back for this lovely eye caviar, and it makes your eyes sparkle!
Meeting LaiSun Keane and Lucy Lacoste, Director of the Lacoste Gallery in Concord, MA, led to a thoughtful discussion of the role business plays in the life of the artist. I also took away a great many details of interest about the 8 artists they represent, notably the nonagenarian Warren Mackenzie , a longtime client of the gallery, who was inspired as much by functionality as form, and Mark Shapiro, whose vibrantly colored, functional work is displayed at the Smithsonian and the Alfred University Museum of Ceramics, among other notable exhibiting institutions. Mr. Shapiro will be speaking at the Fair this week. Below are some examples of small vessels, including the work of these two artists:
At the Fair, I also discovered the work of Martha Rieger —a ceramic artist who confessed in a whisper during our conversation that she was “a late bloomer.” You might not imagine this, considering the monumental exhibits the Brazilian-born Israeli has already achieved throughout her chosen home: At this Fair, Rieger has brought some of her extraordinary pomegranates, pictured below—spheres made of rough black stoneware clay, decorated on the inside with gold.
Ms. Rieger has made up for lost time. Humbling, too, is the result of her study of Shibori painting that is featured on her blue and white ceramic bubbles, on exhibit at the Trumpeldor Gallery in Be’er Sheva. Other large-scale works have appeared throughout Israel, including the Museum of Islamic and Near Eastern Culture in Beer Sheva. I want to hear more about her fluid translations of her own multi-cultural life into these elemental metaphorical shapes that capture a meaning but remain open to interpretation. A good starting place is the book Rieger graciously offered me, her own bilingual Oasis, which tells the story of her passionate, evolving art. You can also read and see more about her work at her website.
Wait! There’s more to see in NYC this weekend: