School of Art

Contact Details

School of Art
Aberystwyth University
Buarth Mawr
SY23 1NG

Tel: +44 (0)1970 622460

Fax: +44 (0)1970 622461


Collecting Contemporary Ceramics

Active collecting in the 1970s coincided with an upturn in the popularity of studio ceramics, the growth of ceramics exhibitions and increased coverage in new publications such as Ceramic Review and Crafts magazine. Many ceramicists produced work which questioned the categories and boundaries of art and craft and claimed ground for the sculptural and conceptual in ceramics. In addition to works aligned with traditional functional ware there are also those that declare the right to continue a tradition of contemplative and emphatically non-utilitarian ceramic forms.

The acquisition policy has always put great emphasis on the purchase of works by contemporary artists. Occasionally generous gifts have enhanced the collection-most notably those made by Lady Pamela Glenconner in 1985 and 1988 and Henry Rothschild in 1999. There have been many other individual gifts from institutions, collectors and potters which have greatly enriched the collection. The Ceramics Series exhibitions, begun by curator Moira Vincentelli for Aberystwyth Arts Centre in 1982, have been showcases of the best of contemporary potters. Purchases have been made from over forty of these exhibitions which have promoted work by the foremost contemporary potters representing the diversity of contemporary practice from 'ethical' utilitarian pots in the Leach tradition to experimental and conceptual pieces. Another source of acquisition has been the International Ceramics Festival held biannually at Aberystwyth since 1987, works by the participating artists have been purchased including those by many European potters.

The Elvet Lewis Bequest in 1980 provided a considerable boost to acquisitions and display facilities. As a consequence all the early studio pottery collection was put on permanent view as 'visible storage' in Aberystwyth Arts Centre; this now complements temporary exhibitions from the collections in the rest of the gallery. Public funds from the Victoria & Albert Museum / Resource Purchase Grant Fund and the National Art Collections Fund have enabled the purchase of works by many internationally renowned ceramicists; Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Paul Soldner, Ewan Henderson, Vladimir Tsivin, Alison Britton, Richard Slee, Ladi Kwali and Elizabeth Fritsch.

The School continues to collect work representative of the 'two strands' of studio ceramics production. The so-called 'ethical pot' of the Leach tradition (utile, democratic, ego-less, craft) and the 'modernist' pots (self-conscious, non-functional, experimental, art) perceived to be direct descendants, through their work and teaching, of Staite Murray and post-war potters, particularly Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. The University is one of the few museums in Britain to collect studio ceramics from outside Britain. The selection made by Moira Vincentelli over the last two decades, admirably documents the changing nature of the debates between the makers of ceramic artefacts.