Welcome to Spotted, your Monday roundup of fascinating tidbits from the world of contemporary ceramics and contemporary ceramic art.
You may be familiar with “unboxing” videos on the Internet; usually they’re of people unwrapping their new iPhone or video game console. You don’t often see them in ceramics, but we have a great one for you today, posted by Christies.
This video shows Josiah Wedgwood’s “First Day’s Vase” from 1769. There’s a story behind this one, related by the auction house:
It was on a visit to Liverpool in 1762 that Wedgwood had a chance meeting with Thomas Bentley, a well-travelled and cultivated man who had taken the Grand Tour in 1753. As a business partner Bentley offered Wedgwood not only essential commercial experience but also a deep understanding of changing tastes and market trends. In combination with Wedgwood’s inventiveness and deep technical understanding of the art of pottery, Bentley was able to help shape and guide the direction of production.
Together, Wedgwood and Bentley played an important part in the development and expansion of the Trent and Mersey Canal. The success of the canal scheme allowed Wedgwood to expand his manufactory, and he purchased a 350-acre estate through which the canal would pass. The new purpose-built factory and the surrounding estate became known as Etruria, named after the ancient central state in Italy whose arts, most notably pottery, were being rediscovered in archaeological digs at the time.
This ‘First Day’s Vase’ was potted on the opening day of the Etruria Factory in Staffordshire on 13 June 1769. Wedgwood potted it himself, with his partner Bentley turning the wheel. ‘It is one of six that were fired,’ explains Burn, ‘but only four survived the firing process, which it makes it all the more exciting.’
A Brief History of Ancient Chinese Pottery
Even if the exhibition wasn’t full of fascinating, historic works of ceramic art, we’d want to single out Harvard’s prehistoric Chinese pottery collection for it’s delightfully ostentatious title: Chinese Pottery: The First Five Millennia. The aim of the exhibition is no less ambitious, Harvard wants to find and understand the roots of this world-shaking art form. From the University:
Prehistoric Pottery from Northwest China, on display through August 14, presents nearly five dozen examples of earthenware ceramics dating from the Neolithic Yangshao culture (5000-3000 B.C.E.)—including delicate bowls and elongated amphorae with textured surfaces, survivors of seven millennia—to the Qijia culture (2200-1600 B.C.E.) and successors, coterminous with the nascent Bronze Age—featuring appealing animate forms, but in some senses surprisingly less refined construction and decoration than that of earlier eras. The sheer antiquity, size, and state of preservation of the objects resonate, as does the sense of discovery that comes from the work under way to understand their creators’ communities and cultures, whose existence has been rediscovered only within the past century.
Please read the whole, fascinating writeup on Harvard Magazine. Enjoy these photographs!
An Ancient Greek Lobster Claw Drinking Horn
Pictures like this one, spotted at New York’s Met Museum, warm my heart. It’s proof that ancient peoples were just as fun as the people I know. This vase, dating back to 460 BCE, is a drinking vessel shaped like a lobster claw. It’s ready for you to tie one on after a hard day of fishing.
Because so many aspects of Greek life depended on the sea, a vase in the shape of a lobster claw is not surprising. It is, however, exceptional and may be a variant of the askos—a bag-shaped oil container provided with a vertical mouth and strap handle. The Dionysiac iconography of the lobster claw suggests that it was a novelty item used at symposia (drinking parties).
Let’s take a moment to appreciate partying, and everything it’s given culture throughout the centuries.
Tea Bowl Sells for $11.7 Million
News from the Neo-Gilded Age! The tea bowl pictured here was auctioned off by Christie’s during its Asian Art Week sale in New York, which had two sales every day for four days. The sale brought in an enormous $58.6 million and a massive chunk of that was because of just one lot. From Larry’s List:
The top lot of the sales was the ‘Oil Spot’ Jian Tea Bowl from The Linyushanren Collection, which was sold for $11,701,000, setting a world auction record for a Song dynasty tea bowl. The buyer is a Chinese collector according to various media. The dedicated sale of Collected in America: Chinese Ceramics from The Metropolitan Museum of Art generated huge international interest and was 100% sold.
Markus Brunetti’s Blue and White Facade
See enough blue and white and you’ll start seeing it everywhere. Case in point: this photograph of a real church shot by Markus Brunetti. Marcus Brunetti: Facades (New York, September 10 – October 17, 2015) showed at Yossi Milo Gallery. From the gallery:
Markus Brunetti’s FACADES series is the result of his travels through Europe from 2005 to the present day, capturing the façades of historic cathedrals, churches and cloisters in minute detail. In the tradition of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s serial documentation of German industrialization, the front surface of each structure is recorded in a precise and regulated style allowing for typologies and comparisons. The subjects are conceived as idealized designs, or as what might be called photographic drawings on paper, similar to the architects’ or builders’ original drawings and the engravings of Old Masters.
Meme Corner #2
Last week Garth took my comment that there aren’t many ceramics memes as a challenge. A few days later he turned up this gag involving a coffee cup and everyone’s favorite self-mutilating artist.
Meme-ing. It’s not an art form… Not yet, anyway.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these missives from the world of contemporary ceramics? Let us know in the comments.