Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection
Mint Museum Uptown
October 1, 2010 – March 13, 2011
Drawn from the collection of Diane and Marc Grainer of suburban Washington, D.C., this exhibition is the first comprehensive survey of Contemporary British Studio Ceramics in the United States and Great Britain. Comprised of functional and sculptural objects made between the 1980s and 2009, the show features work by 100 artists either born or residing in Great Britain, including established “contemporary classics” like Lucie Rie and cutting-edge ceramicists such as Julian Stair, Kate Malone, Neil Brownsword, and Grayson Perry.
The Grainers are well-known in the United States as collectors of Studio Furniture and American craft in general, and as leaders in the craft community through their work with the American Crafts Council, the Furniture Society, the James Renwick Alliance, and the Founders’ Circle, the national support group of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design. Their extensive and virtuoso collection of contemporary British ceramics is perhaps their greatest contribution to the field. Over a 30-year period, the Grainers’ keen connoisseurship skills and tenacity led them to acquire some of the very best work.
Rooted in the materiality of clay, a hallmark of studio pottery, the ceramic art featured in the exhibition chronicles the history of Contemporary British Studio Ceramics. Whether a pot or sculpture, the properties of the raw material, from its soft malleable texture to the alchemy of slips and glazes, and its propensity to melt and harden, are at the core of the artist’s passion. The exhibition begins with a recap of the earlier 20th century masters, then moves to works that demonstrate the two different strains of influence that informed contemporary makers—from the historicism of Bernard Leach and his successors to the refugee modernism embodied by Lucie Rie.
A plethora of “honest pots” highlights the straightforward, form-following-function vessels and platters of master potters such as Richard Batterham, Clive Bowen and Bill Marshall. The show then explores the sculptural forms of Gordon Baldwin, Ken Eastman and Nicholas Rena, moving on to the figurative and narrative compositions of Christie Brown, Claire Curneen and Phil Eglin, ending with a look at the most recent intersection of ceramic art, design and social commentary.
“The most thrilling quality of Contemporary British Studio Ceramics is that the field remains free from a defining aesthetic and cannot be tied together by one common visual thread,” said Annie Carlano, Director of Craft + Design and curator of the exhibition. “There has never been a comprehensive exhibition on either side of the pond about these objects. Building on the Mint’s internationally recognized collection of historic English ceramics, this exhibition allows us to explore a wider wealth of riches and continue the story from art pottery to clay art today.”
Contemporary British Studio Ceramics: The Grainer Collection will be accompanied by the eponymous book, published by Yale University Press. Academic and lavishly illustrated, it features contributions by Tanya Harrod, Glenn Adamson and Michelle Mickey, as well as an interview with Diane and Marc Grainer. Edited by Annie Carlano, this important publication underscores the Mint Museum of Craft + Design’s commitment to scholarly excellence. The exhibition is organized by The Mint Museum and sponsored by Duke Energy.