ceramic sculpture in a museum

‘that pause of space’ (2019), Edmund de Waal, on view in the North Hall, © Edmund de Waal. Courtesy the artist and The Frick Collection; photo: Christopher Burke

Edmund de Waal is known as a contemporary ceramist, who pushes the preconceived ideas of his discipline, by questioning an object’s narrative, their place in collections and how they are displayed. His installations are interventions, which resonate with their historic locations, creating an intriguing dialogue between art and space. By contrasting old masters and his new forms, de Waal offers a comment on time, memory and the journey of objects, reminding the viewer that context is integral to the meaning of art.

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Ceramic sculpture in a museum

‘that pause of space’ (2019), Edmund de Waal, on view in the North Hall, © Edmund de Waal. Courtesy the artist and The Frick Collection; photo: Christopher Burke

In de Waal’s first solo US exhibition Elective Affinities at the Frick Collection in New York, his ceramic sculptures have been placed amongst the museum’s permanent collection; rooms which comprise of Henry Clay Frick’s Old Master paintings and objets d’art, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velásquez and Goya. de Waal’s artwork ‘that pause of space’, is situated between Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s ‘Comtesse d’Haussonville’ (1845) and an eighteenth-century French side table of blue marble and gilt-bronze, commissioned by the Duchess of Mazarin.

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that pause of space is a gold-framed, floating vitrine containing both glazed and unglazed porcelain beakers. de Waal’s framing and fragments of gilt porcelain on the beakers ties the work to the surroundings through a common materiality. There is a unification of the works in terms of formal qualities, but equally as a collection as the works are all displayed within a gilt-frame. However, the contemporary aesthetic and context of de Waal’s pieces allows us to also view the works as distinct objects, each with individual stories. The beakers’ white, minimal and slender forms present their modern creation in comparison to the light and dark of Ingres’s chiaroscuro portrait painting.

ceramic sculpture in a museum

‘on an archaic torso of Apollo’ (2019), Edmund de Waal, on view in the Fragonard Room, © Edmund de Waal. Courtesy the artist and The Frick Collection; photo: Christopher Burke

The exhibition features nine of de Waal’s artworks in total, each provoking a dialogue between modern and old, object and context, as well as offering fresh perspectives on the space itself.

Rosie Ellison-Balaam

‘Elective Affinities’ runs until 17 November 2019 at The Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, New York. For more information visit: frick.org