London's International Ceramics Fair and Seminar at the Park Lane Hotel, London, June 15-18, 2001.
What is the touchstone for ceramics today? Where can one be sure to find lovers of Chelsea, Bow and Chinese porcelain? The answer to both questions is, quite simply, London's International Ceramics Fair and Seminar, June 15-18, 2001. At 20 years old, this fair demonstrates the strength and increasing breadth of the ceramics market. The show organizers, Brian and Anna Haughton, are leading the way in supporting the specialty, encouraging research and nurturing a generation of collectors.
Held in the highly well preserved Art Deco Park Lane Hotel (in fact, the ballroom was filmed in all its silvered glory for Brideshead Revisited), the fair attracts collectors at all levels. Simply consider the ranks of the opening day queue, which began to form at 4 a.m. There were a slew of museum curators from such hallowed halls as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Scotland and the Houston Museum of Art, as well as 20 others. More than 1,000 visitors filed through the front doors in the first hour.
Why such a studied audience? In addition to some 40 dealers from eight countries, the fair presents an extensive roster of 14 seminars, each featuring original research presented by leading experts.
The loan exhibition, "Sèvres Masterpieces from a Private European Collection," includes more than 20 examples of superlative porcelain. Collections of French Sèvres formed within the past decade or two rarely contain large pieces, but this one boasts trays and vases. One highlight is a pair of sorbet coolers once owned by Catherine the Great of Russia. Studded with cameo scenes of mythological subjects and especially rich gold decoration, the pair dates from 1779.
Those who are anxious to learn more about Sèvres caught the lecture here by London dealer Adrian Sassoon, who did a stint at the Getty. And on his stand is a dinner plate from that service for the Empress of Russia. It's priced at $35,000. Sassoon also has a pair of wine coolers with scenes a la chinois after Boucher, priced at $104,500. They are also Sèvres.
Also touting Sèvres are dealers John Whitehead, E. & H. Manners and Drageso-Cramoisan.
First-time participant Bazaart is showing both Italian majolica and Venetian glass. The gallery has a particularly rare 1533 majolica dish depicting Vulcan forging arrows for Cupid, priced at $83,000. Also at the booth is a 20th-century Seguso table in glass: it's quite Modernist and priced at $20,000.
At the booth of the legendary antiques dealer Mallet is superb 19th-century cut glass. There's a round pedestal table by Baccarat and a pair of five-foot-tall torcheres by the U.K. firm Osler. Both are $90,000.
But it's not only richly royal porcelain on view. There are ceramics that can be had for relatively modest sums. Delft tiles from the 18th century in the requisite blue and white can be picked up for less than $70 at both Garry Atkins and Jonathan Horne.
Front and center at the fair is the American-born (but U.K. resident) master glass artist Danny Lane, who is offering new creations of industrial glass. One standout is a quixotic chair composed of stacked slabs of his signature green glass for a touch under $18,000. It's considerably cheaper than Chippendale, and Lane pieces do come up at auction, where they fetch steep prices.
Both the offerings and the clientele demonstrate hands down the demands for excellence in this field.
BROOK S. MASON writes on the fine and decorative arts.