The November auction includes the first selection from an exquisite private collection of 20th Century Japanese ceramics. The extraordinary collection has over 250 pieces, featuring works by world renowned Mingei and Sodeisha artists. Included will be traditional tea ceremony wares as well as more avant-garde sculptural works. The Parisian collector began collecting French ceramics but discovered British ceramics when he spent a number of years living in London.
The Contemporary Ceramics auctions at Bonhams proved a valuable source at this time and his early interest in the works of Bernard Leach quickly lead him to Hamada Shoji and on to the world of Japanese ceramics. The vendor was greatly advised by the renowned Japanese ceramics specialist Robert Yellin. Many of the works were purchased from his Yakimono Gallery in Kyoto, and some of them from Yellin's personal collection when his book Ode to Japanese Pottery was published in English in 2004. A number of works in the collection are reproduced in this book.
Other works were purchased from Mainichi, the leading auction house of Japan. This collection offers a rare and exciting opportunity to view and handle works by some of the Japanese ceramic masters and Living National Treasures.
Maak is best known for specialising exclusively in studio ceramics and contemporary ceramic art, an area that Director Marijke Varrall-Jones has been working in for over 10 years.
"The vast majority of our clients are private individuals who have been building their collections of studio ceramics over many years and decades. As such they are highly knowledgeable and enthusiastic - ceramics is their passion rather than a commercial exercise. We are fortunate to work closely with private collectors when gathering works for sale,'' commented Marijke Varrall-Jones.
''It makes for a rare and privileged position where we are able to foster close working relationships with our collectors when putting together our auctions. Art collections are rarely static entities, they evolve and change over time to reflect new interests and changing tastes of the individual. As such our buyers are frequently also sellers - passing on pots that they have outgrown and replacing them with new additions to their collections. Our clients often describe their compulsion for collecting studio ceramics as an obsession – they just can't help themselves!"
Exceptional examples by Ewen Henderson and Gordon Baldwin will also excite collectors. Henderson was taught at Camberwell School of Art by Rie, Coper, Dan Arbeid and Colin Pearson, but identified Duckworth as amongst the most important of his multiple influences. He developed a highly individualistic and unique aesthetic language. His volatile forms were built up by hand from thin layers of laminated stoneware and porcelain clay, the colors and textures intrinsically incorporated into the surface with slips and glazes. The result is highly textural, irregular vessels that resemble metamorphic rock or fragments of volcanic lava. Henderson pushed his materials to their limits, taking risks but with a skill that enabled him to create forms that appear on the point of collapse. Henderson referred to his work as 'drawing in three dimensions' as he pushed the boundaries of ceramic art into the direction of pure sculpture.
Another ceramicist devoted to exploring the sculptural possibilities of clay as a medium is Gordon Baldwin. His sculptural forms examine the relationship between form and surface. They are all vessels but often only in the abstract sense that they contain space – there is no suggestion of functional purpose. This sense of contained volume is simultaneously contrasted and unified with the surface in his abstract painterly marks. His works perhaps owe more to sculpture or even painting than pottery and this ambiguity is emphasised in his series of works entitled 'Painting in the form of a Bowl' from circa 1980. Baldwin's use of clay is in many ways incidental, explaining himself how 'every artist needs some material to do his thinking in.'
Heading over to Scandinavia, pieces by Stig Lindberg (Swedish, 1916-1982), the 'grand dame' of Danish ceramics Gutte Eriksen (Danish, 1918-2008) and an unusual early work by Bodil Manz (Danish, b.1943), originally from the renowned J.W.N. van Achtenburg Collection are all included in the sale.
The pieces are available to view at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery, 5 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 4UY.