Calling All Ceramics Lovers! Here Are 3 Galleries (and Some Important Artists) You Should Know
The ancient medium is experiencing a collecting renaissance—and these three dealers are leading the way.
Ceramics can inspire a kind of obsession. Mark Twain, in fact, was an avid collector of the stuff. The author once effused that the “marks on the bottom of a piece of rare crockery are able to throw me into a gibbering ecstasy.”
As ancient as they are cross-cultural, ceramics emerged in Africa, China, and the Ancient Mediterranean thousands of years ago. Recently, however, the medium has risen from the shadow of “craft” to become one of the most popular collecting fields around. For those gone mad for the medium, we’ve chosen three of our favorite ceramics galleries from across the country.
Duane Reed Gallery
St. Louis’s Duane Reed Gallery opened its doors in 1994, presenting a diversified roster of painters, photographers, and mixed-media artists working in glass, ceramic, and fiber. “At the time, there were not many dealers devoted to that type of mix,” said founder Duane Reed. “I always found the combination of materials more intriguing myself.” Over the years, as Reed saw the experimental and exciting work coming out of ceramics programs, the gallery shifted its focus to increasingly center on ceramics and glass.
“I began to realize the greater extent to which the field affected the art world in general,” said Reed. “Younger ceramic artists were taking risks, inventing, reinventing, and combining materials in such unconventional ways.”
Asked to name the most influential ceramicist of the generation, Reed pointed to Rudy Autio, who passed away in 2007. “He was a true master who employed the vessel form as a canvas for expressionistic and lyrical paintings,” he said. “Seeing the world through such a talented artist’s eyes is a gift that will resound in generations of younger artists to come.”
As for the up-and-comers to watch, Reed noted Steven Young Lee, who deconstructs forms of traditional Chinese porcelain, and Bonnie Seeman, whose work merges traditional decorative arts with anatomical and botanical forms to macabre effect.
For those looking for the next vanguard of ceramicists, the gallery will be curating an exhibition of works by five cutting edge artists: Bean Finneran, Jess Riva Cooper, Rain Harris, Janice Jakielski, and Zemer Peled.
Location: Duane Reed Gallery, 4729 McPherson Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri
Jason Jacques Gallery
Jason Jacques Gallery is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. When asked what drew him to the field, gallerist Jason Jacques sites a trip to the Met, where he discovered the ceramics works of Symbolist artist Lucien Lèvy Dhurmer.
“He made the most sublime and beautiful creations with opulent iridescent glazes depicting dark rotting thistles, and swamp critters like dragonflies and newts,” said Jacques. “It’s what I have chased from the very beginning.”
Over the past three decades, the Upper East Side gallery has certainly witnessed a big shift in the ceramics market. “When we started we were offering primarily Art Nouveau works,” said Jacques. “But in the past ten years there has been a real and exciting growth in contemporary sales.” The contemporary ceramic artists to watch? Jacques doesn’t hesitate: “Aneta Regel and Gareth Mason are on fire!”
Location: Jason Jacques Gallery, 29 East 73rd Street, New York, NY
Jeffrey Spahn Gallery
Over the past two decade years, Jeffrey Spahn Gallery has established itself as a leading source for masters of 20th-century ceramics, offering works by artists including, among others, Peter Voulkos, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Toshiko Takaezu, Betty Woodman, Viola Frey, and Ken Price. What was once a niche collecting field appears to be finding a wider audience.
“Roberta Smith said it best when she called ceramics the new video art,” said Spahn. “Today we sell ceramics not only to devoted collectors in the field, but to major museums, fine art collectors, and contemporary interior designers.”
Spahn sees this blossoming fascination with the medium as a sign of the times, and a “back to the land” mentality that mirrors the popularity ceramics experienced in the 1950s and ’60s. “Ceramics add the dynamism of three dimensions to any collection. But they can also be functional and incredibly durable,” said Spahn. “In a world where we all lead virtual lives, these objects connect collectors to their hands, their body, and their heart.”
But what captivated earlier ceramics dealers that the rest are catching up to? Spahn says that for himself, is the medium’s delightful surprises.
“Ceramics can literally take on the appearance of just about any other physical medium. It can look like glass, it can look like stone, it can look like brick, it can look like tree bark. It can be trompe-l’œil or abstract,” he said. “If you’re going to limit yourself to one medium, ceramics provides the most diversity available.”
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