Emotional art like modern ceramics are back in focus at Christie’s Un/breakable

Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Concetto Spaziale.

Where does the decorative and the artistic intersect when it comes to ceramics, this is the latest question which art world is questioning after Christie’s curated Evening Auction UN/ BREAKABLE in September, dedicated to Modern and Contemporary ceramics which came to a result of 3,107,625 GBP, among work by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Fontana, Grayson Perry, Fausto Melotti and Thomas Schütte,

We had a chat with Senior specialist, director at Christie’s, Leonie Mir who says “For me, the art of ceramics remains one of perpetual surprise. At its core lies a humble material, whose results – once committed to flame – are eternally unpredictable”:

Leonie Mir

IRMA: Tell us shortly about the red ribbon to curate the un/ breakable for Christie’s this autumn?
LEONIE MIR: I wanted to showcase beautiful objects made by hand and play with the boundaries between “decorative arts” and “fine arts” by placing them side by side.

IRMA: Which artist, modern and contemporary should we put an eye on in the future regarding ceramic art ?
LEONIE MIR: Betty Woodman, Karim Gulbran, Takuro Kuwata, George Ohr and Shio Kusaka amongst many more.

Fausto Melotti (1901-1986), I gessetti

IRMA:  Why do you think Asia always had a stronger relationship towards ceramics than Europeans?
LEONIE MIR: Asia never really had this severe distinction between a major artisan and an “artist”. Both were equally revered …

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Grand vase aux femmes voilees.


IRMA:  Is something three dimensional, usable and made by hand the next art piece to invest in?
LEONIE MIR:  Absolutely, even though I would make a distinction between “usable” and actually made to be used every day. One could in theory use Gauguin’s vases to put flowers into, or Grayson Perry’s vases, but I would strongly advise not to. These objects are fragile, and the use of water night not be advisable.
On the other hand, I just bought an 19th century porcelain vase by Sevres which I will definitely use as a vase.

Grayson Perry (B. 1960), Golden Ghosts


IRMA: How do you explain such a hype towards ceramic arts right now, is that the answer of the digital overload and technology driven world?
LEONIE MIR: I think people are starting to get a bit tired of art that is too conceptual and cerebral and are therefore moving towards art which has a strong emotional and sensual connection.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Portrait de Jacqueline.


IRMA: Which are the criteria as a collector I should look out when buying a piece of ceramics?
LEONIE MIR: I would say pretty much the same as when looking at flat art: is the artist represented by good galleries, look at past exhibitions to judge the consistent quality and very important for ceramics is obviously the condition of the work .. always look for cracks, unless they are part of the creation process.

Thomas Schütte (B. 1954), Ceramic Sketch
Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), Crocifisso.

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Take a virtual tour through the exhibition UN/ Breakable

All pictures are from the Un/ Breakable auction at Christie’s. © Christie’s Images Limited