Last week was a very arty/gallery week for me what with the Whitworth on Tuesday and a re-visit to York City Art Gallery on Thursday. Back in April I first visited the recently re-opened Art Gallery in York with the local Art Fund.
Centre of Ceramic Art, CoCA.
York City Art Gallery
11am, Friday 1st April 2016
York’s wondrously refurbished Art Gallery is now host to the new Centre of Ceramic Art, a splendid addition to the Museum’s collection. On show are the collections of three major 20th century collectors of contemporary pottery in a display which rivals the works themselves. Helen Walsh, Curator of Ceramics, will talk about the bringing together of the collection before showing us round. In addition, a guided session on handling pots will give you a chance to learn much more about the making processes and understand the unique appeal of the items in the York collection.
This display of ceramics is a real eye-opener.
Own transport starting in foyer at 11 am
Light Refreshments are available in the café of the gallery but space is limited. There are
numerous cafes adjacent to the gallery.
I’d seen some of the pots from York’s collection at Leeds a while ago during the renovation work at York. But that day was a ‘real eye-opener’ and I knew that I had to go back … and who would enjoy it with me.
After coffee we headed upstairs to the main CoCA gallery where Anthony Shaw’s collection of ceramics has been reassembled as if it were in his own home.
“As a child, collector Anthony Shaw travelled widely with his parents and his early purchases were chosen as they reminded him of things seen in international museums.
He began collecting in the 1970s and after meeting artists Gordon Baldwin and Ewen Henderson, developed an interest in sculptural ceramics.
He now has significant groups of work by Baldwin and Henderson, as well as other artists including Gillian Lowndes, Sara Radstone, Ian Godfrey, Bryan Illsley and a collection of more than 550 buttons by Lucie Rie.
The collection was set up as a Charitable Trust in 2002 and continues to grow. He has given his collection to York Museums Trust on long term loan.”
On 1st April we spent time here looking closely at examples of Studio Pottery from Shaw’s collection and even handling some. The arrangement, despite being within the the confines of a much larger space, gave a suitable feeling of intimacy which I also felt at Kettles Yard in Cambridge. I loved the fact that the walls are filled with books which Shaw’s mother had collected over the years. She’d been an air hostess hence the opportunities for foreign travel by the Shaws.
The gallery offers a couple of ten minute introductions each afternoon and we opted for one explaining and highlighting pots from the Wall of Pots. Opposite the Anthony Shaw display glass cabinets stretch along the whole side wall of the gallery creating a wall of pots based on the colours of the rainbow. There’s a mnemonic for remembering the colours of the rainbow – Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.
Sorry to be a philistine but this cheeky chappy reminds me of the free novelty Cuppa Soup mugs we used to send off for the 1970s.
In the main gallery is a huge installation by Clare Twomey “10,000 Hours”. The bowls piled high on the scaffolding represent 10,000 hours of work which is thought to be the amount of time required to become a fully expert craftsman. Clare Twomey was helped in this project by a large number of volunteer potters and each pot took one hour to make.
In the video above you can also see how the display cabinets around the gallery fill with pots. Each cabinet is devoted to a particular potter alongside the work of potters influenced by them :
Flask by Elizabeth Fritsch
The Bather by William Staite Murray
As you would expect York City Art Gallery also own a Grayson Perry pot. Theirs is called ‘Melanie’; one of The Three Graces created for Channel 4 series Who Are You?
Finally, the huge archive of pots (3,600 in total created by over 500 potters) collected by the former Wakefied librarian W A (Bill) Ismay was donated to York Gallery in 2001. Many of these pots are displayed around the gallery in the cases and wall of pots. I wrote about my visit to The Hepworth in Wakefield to see part of this vast collection in an unusual setting.
W. A. Ismay, MBE by Peter Meanley