At Design Miami/, Bold Ceramists Affirm that the Medium Is Not a Passing Trend
Works by Lee Hun Chung installed at SEOMI International’s booth at Design Miami/, 2015. Photo by James Harris, courtesy of Design Miami/.
For the past year and a half, ceramics have seen a steady surge at contemporary art and design fairs alike. At recent editions of Design Miami/, The Salon Art + Design, and Collective Design, porcelain and stoneware pieces—utilitarian forms and nonfunctional innovations—filled the booths of tastemaking gallerists like Patrick Parrish, Friedman Benda, and Twenty First Gallery. The trend has persisted through 2015, thanks to the constant production streaming in from versatile designers and masterful potters like the plucky Haas Brothers, newcomer Cassie Griffin, and Japanese virtuoso Takuro Kuwata, as well as fresh work by more established figures like Eric Astoul and Nathalie du Pasquier. The art world heightened this preoccupation with ceramics through a sprinkling of strong kiln-fired exhibitions this fall, including Johan Creten at Galerie Perrotin in New York and Dan McCarthy at Venus Over Los Angeles. The trend shows no sign of cooling off with a strong presence at Design Miami/ 2015.
No longer relegated to decorative art fairs, several galleries dedicated their whole booths to the medium at this year’s fair. At Thomas Fritsch-ARTRIUM, ceramics become a historical affair with an exhibition that surveys French ceramics created between 1945 and 1970. Displayed in rows and clusters on long elegant tables by Roger Capron and Vera Székely, the candy-colored pots and vases of modern masters like Georges Jouve and Suzanne Ramie take center stage. “It’s interesting because it’s a really new specialty and a hot market, so there are many things to do exhibition-wise,” says owner Thomas Fritsch. “This period was very important to ceramics, and in my opinion, as important as the painting, architecture, and furniture that was being made around the same time. It was a real way for the artist to create, but for a long time these pieces were just seen as accessories.”
While ceramics dealers like Jason Jacques Inc. are certainly not in it for the trend, there seems to be an increased desire to push the medium’s traditional context to new extremes. At the fair, the Upper East Side Manhattan gallery had brought what is arguably one of the most eye-catching installations, with a tree house erected inside their booth. The lofted space serves as a fittingly playful complement to the naturalistic work of ceramist Eric Serritella, whose work is displayed prominently. His twisted bark sculptures and stoneware pots are so realistic that it takes a second glance to notice that they were not, in fact, ever alive. Placed next to the work of more traditional potters like Ursula Scheid and Otto Meier, Serritella’s trees showcase the breadth and potential of the ancient material.
Lee Hun Chung dominates at SEOMI International with his showstopping technicolor display, including a huge glazed bathtub. Oversized and slightly lopsided, Chung’s bath looks like something from a fever dream, and you can’t help but want to reach out and touch it. Accompanied by his stools and tiles, the work extends beyond the tabletop realm and into furniture.
The trend is perhaps most poignant in its subtle presence at booths like Patrick Parrish Gallery and Hostler Burrows where ceramics linger among furniture and lighting, and given an equal share of the spotlight. “We’ve always included the decorative arts into our program with a heavy emphasis on ceramics, so it’s natural for us to show these works alongside the furniture,” explains Kim Hostler, co-founder of the space. Blended into the scene of their booth are the coral-inspired works of Eva Zethraeus, a seasoned ceramist, which stun with their handcrafted intricacies. “She builds each one by hand. These aren’t the work of a young artist trying to jump on a trend, they are works that demonstrate mastery” Hostler remarks. “There just happens to be a craze now, so you see a lot more people showing ceramics than ever before. I think it’s hard to determine how trends are changing in time, but if the peak is midnight, I would say we are still around eight o’clock.”