Great subject for Discussion…particularly now.

Recently the New York Times ran an article about how British artist and writer, Edmund De Waal was to have his first New York exhibition at the prestigious Madison Avenue  art gallery Gagosian, although the article made more of his book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, than the work. See NYT Poetry in Porcelain.However the article did state that this was De Waal’s first NYC exhibition and that his intent was, while continuing to make many small cylinders clustered as installation within containers, or contained spaces, he was, for this occasion, moving to black porcelain rather than his standard white. De Waal was interviewed and quoted musicians like Steve Reich and photographers like Sugimoto – minimalist, repetitive, multiples…

Well, following on that Garth Clark has moved into print congratulating De Waal on the forthcoming show, but stating that his eponymous gallery in NYC had a solo De Waal exhibition back in 1998. Clark was offended that an artist (or perhaps his new gallery’s marketing branch) should deny craft roots and further noted that De Waal’s current CVs start after the Garth Clark Gallery insert. Clark considers this deliberate as it has several manifestations and asks that the bios be adjusted. See the letter below…

It has produced some further commentary by other writers, mostly backing Clark (no comment from De Waal as yet) and calling for an embrace of history. After all history is simply that – something that has happened, so why deny it or ignore it. As one commentator said – ethics can always be debated but history is history.

I am curious about this perceived search for ‘status’ as seen by some ceramists as it can manifest here too. It’s a bit like a bit of clay or something else sticking to the sole of the shoes that one would prefer was not there… and wanting to be seen in a different milieu – probably market driven as prices for work and fees for commissions are far higher in a ‘fine art’ context. Sad but true. Something we live with.

However one notes that such artists still will apply for a CNZ grant under the rubric of ‘Craft/Object Art’ – maybe because it might be seen as an easier option? (I don’t think it is but there you go…) By all means shake the clay off the boot and ‘make it’ through to whatever it is that one desires. However, maybe such status seekers should not dip into the ‘Craft’ pot for funding to help their upward mobility but be in a level playing field with perceived peers? I think that would be fair… I could go on, there are more facets to this, but am curious if anyone else might have something to add? It’s currently a lively topic off-shore.


Garth Clark’s letter…



I am thrilled that Edmund de Waal made it to the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue. Its a long difficult journey for any potter and he deserves a round of applause. But Edmund, as you well know, this is not your first gallery exhibition in America as was trumpeted in the New York Times and on Gagosian’s website and certainly not in New York. We showed you at the Garth Clark Gallery in New York in a solo exhibition, July 1998. All the correspondence relating to the exhibition can be found in the Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio Archives at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston.

This is a simply a lie for marketing impact and to fuzzy-up your craft roots. I wondered if this was isolated and went looking. Your website invites you to visit your “FULL CV” but it conveniently starts in 1999, a year before your actual first New York exhibition. I searched other sites and it seems that your CV’s have been recently scrubbed from certain venues…

In the upper branches of the fine arts industry marketing eventually trumps history, but I did not expect you to make the conversion to virtual reality quite so quickly!

Can we look forward to your medium being described as ‘hard white stuff’, or black for the Gagosian exhibition?

Trust you will ask your gallery to adjust its website to reflect this fact. It’s not the biggest of lies but as an historian and the dealer who showed you, I am offended.


Garth Clark



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4 responses to “Great subject for Discussion…particularly now.

  1. Suzy Dünser

    Good on Garth Clark for calling Edmund de Waal on this – it is a slight to a gallery that supported him in his early years.
    I suspect there’s not much point arguing what people “should” or “shouldn’t” do – surviving as a fine artist is not much (if any) easier than surviving as a ceramic artist, and if there’s a chance to get money from the craft pot people will take it. I guess it’s up to CNZ to decide whether an application really belongs in that category. Likewise, if creating an identity as a fine artist rather than a ceramic artist will increase the value of one’s work (and it seems to by a factor of 10), it’s not surprising that some artists will try to establish that identity for themselves. It’s certainly not the community-based approach of trying to raise the reputation of ceramic artists as a group, but maybe a few individual successes will pave the way for others in the future. Time will tell.

  2. Alex

    Dear Cone10, You write “Garth Clark has moved into print congratulating De Waal on the forthcoming show”. Please can you tell me where Garth Clark’s letter was published. Thank you.

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