In this seminar, curator Martina Droth discusses the exhibition Things of Beauty Growing: British Studio Pottery, which is on view at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, this autumn. The exhibition is the first scholarly examination of the ceramic arts to be undertaken by the YCBA, and the first major survey of the subject to be presented at a North American museum. The ceramic arts are often set apart from the mainstream of British art history, and treated as a specialist discipline, with its own distinct exhibitionary arenas. It would be hard to imagine this exhibition at Tate Britain, for example; the more expected context is the museum of applied and decorative art such as the V&A, or the Fitzwilliam Museum, where this show is indeed traveling after it closes at Yale. Given that the Center was itself explicitly founded as a fine art collection, which relates the history of British art primarily as a history of paintings, Things of Beauty Growing sends a timely signal about the importance of ceramics to the wider field. It shows that this field is interdisciplinary and multivalent, and it reveals ceramics in Britain to resonate with contemporary art practices at large, which are inherently global. The installation Made in China by the British conceptual artist Clare Twomey in many ways sums up this expanded field of ceramics, in that it reaches beyond autonomous craft practices to an engagement with the international material language of the vessel.
Exhibition tour led by Martina Droth, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 18 October 2017.