Lambertville New Jersey—American & European Ceramics at Rago Auctions (11 September 2020) offered a superb group of George E. Ohr pots (mainly from the Robert Ellison Collection). Small pots 4-5 ½ high, long ignored, have come roaring into their own. And it’s about time.
As we pointed out Lucie Rie’s small pots have been receiving a lot of attention and huge prices. The buyers are mainly Japanese who have a different view of scale and will pay a substantial premium for a small prefect pot. Is this group now onto Ohr?
Maybe the catalyst was Ohr placement in the new MoMA. In Cfile Allen Weis writes about “the appearance of six ceramic works by George Ohr in one of the newly organized galleries at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a room displaying modernist masterpieces by Seurat, Munch, Rousseau, Ensor, Redon, Gauguin, directly opposite one of the museum’s most beloved attractions, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. “
When the cache of 10,000 Ohr pots was discovered in the attic Ohr’s sons’ barn in 1968, only about 600 were the trophies. Bigger scale, spectacular glazes, extreme manipulation and his ribbon handles, curling twisting and undulating. The rest, some 9,400 pieces, few over 4-5 ½ inches in height, included many dull vessels with ordinary glazes, some broken, some burnt (reclaimed from a studio fire). But there were also, maybe, a thousand polychromatic shimmering gems.
This is good news for the Ohr market now that these are being taken seriously. Prices have been hovering on the low side because of a lack of works for sale. For all of you who bought or were gifted a small Ohr, it is time to have it appraised.
The first notice that Ohr was coming back was the Early 20th Century Design Auction (18 January. 2020) where a large somewhat bizarre, hybrid work XX inches high, unusual scale for Ohr that fetched $100,000.
Before looking at the leaders in the sale, Cfile’s favorite was Lot 102, a good buy at $15,000 and a microcosm of Ohr’s art pot career.
Below are images of some pots under 5 ½ high and over $20,000. We have selected some of the highest priced work and organized it by sale price, lowest to highest. You can visit the Rago site here.
I have to admit that I never thought that this little four-inch masterpiece (Lot 248) would sell for $78,000. It’s not the money per se, this “clay baby”, as Ohr called them, it is worth it. Rather it shows a new maturity among collectors.
Nothing represents this more than the unglazed pot (see Lot 103) with scroddled clay (known as neriage in Japan). They were not popular and got much lower prices than the glazed pots. Back in the 70’s a certain unscrupulous dealer (now in his grave and will remain anonymous) had scores of these glazed. For those who knew Ohr’s work they were easy to spot with their clumsy, lackluster glazes.
For some reason they are called “reglazed” but seeing as they were not glazed before, “refired” would be more accurate. They are unsaleable (except to the gullible) and many magnificent terracotta works, some of his most inventive forms, were lost.
We still have to see what his larger key works will fetch if one comes to market (not the pot above that sold for $100,000) but a “top-ten” piece, blazing with color and vaginal shape, twists, ruffles so intense that they are orgasmic. The same might be true of the price.