Video: Frieze Masters Talk with Edmund de Waal

VIDEO: In this Frieze Masters talk, the artist says he desires an "anxiety exhibit."

The talk series at Frieze Masters, which also includes discussions with artists William Kentridge and Phyllida Barlow, was a new addition to the talks program at Frieze London, with support by Gucci and artnet. In this fourth and final talk of the series, ceramicist Edmund de Waal speaks with Paulus Rainer, the deputy head of Kunstkammer and Treasury at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

The artist was born in Nottingham, UK into the Ephrussi clan, a prosperous Jewish banking family who came to prominence in 19th-century Odessa, Paris, and Vienna. The Ephrussi art collection is now widely dispersed in private collections and museums, with items still coming to auction. In early 2013, a Fragonard painting once owned by a distant cousin of de Waal’s appeared in a Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings and Sculpture Sale. In 2010, he wrote a family memoir entitled The Hare with Amber Eye: A Hidden Inheritance, recounting the process of his tracking the origins of a collection of inherited Netsuke—small Japanese carvings made of ivory or wood. His interest in Japanese language, ceramics, and aesthetics has heavily influenced his work. His stacked and placed objects are refined and minimalist, with subtle gradations in tone and texture.

The artist has been working at the ceramic wheel since his childhood. He studied under Jeffrey Whitling at the King’s School in Canterbury. When he was 17 years old, he deferred acceptance to Cambridge University in order to do a two-year-long apprenticeship under Whitling. He graduated from Trinity Hall, Cambridge with high honors in 1986. Afterward, he moved to the Welsh border to make inexpensive pots, then to Sheffield to work with porcelain, before returning to Britain in 1993.

His memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes has received critical acclaim, and has won many literary prizes, including the Costa Book Award and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. De Waal has made installations for many museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the new Asian Pavilion at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Tate Britain. In 2011, he was awarded an OBE for his contributions to art. His current projects include working with David Chipperfield Architects at London’s Victoria station, and upcoming exhibitions at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


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