|Shigekazu Nagae, Slipcast and glazed porcelain, Yufuku Gallery (Japan)|
Since its controversial move to its Chelsea Duke of York Square premises in 2008, it’s fair to say the Saatchi gallery in London is better known for its cutting edge art and photography, rather than showcasing ‘craft’. Don’t let that put you off. Any doubts on whether contemporary craft is serious business (worth over £800 million in the UK alone) were readily eradicated after visiting this year’s Collect.
Supported by the Crafts Council, Collect is the most prestigious international contemporary craft fair in the UK. This year saw 31 gallery exhibitors, from UK, Europe to Asia, including China for the first time. This is where international collectors, major buyers, gallery directors and museum curators hunt down the finest pieces to add to their prized public collections. To indicate how serious it is- there’s even a Collect Art Fund of £70,000 where curators pitch in front of a Dragon’s Den-style committee why they should acquire their chosen item.
This year ceramics and jewellery were impressive, with works that left me speechless (in good and bad ways). In terms of pushing the boundaries of concepts, materials and techniques, the Northern European scene are evidently more fearless than its British counterparts. The contemporary jewellery scene in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Belgium have been well established here for a number of years now, fronted by galleries like Galerie Marzee. Jewellery is not just concerned with adornment- it can be avant-garde, wearable (or unwearable), sculptural, which seek their own identity beyond the wearer.
One must applaud the anything-goes spirit of shocking items like German jeweller Stefan Heuser’s giant beaded necklace, made from human breast milk (Galerie Rob Koudijs). Animal lovers beware- from Idiots’ dissected taxidermy bird necklace (to Märta Mattsson’s electroformed, crystal studded spiders (both represented by Galerie Marzee), nothing is too bizarre for bling.
The ancient oriental technique of laquerware saw an unexpected return this year; the refreshing interpretations by Chinese (Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong) and Japanese galleries (Yufuku Gallery and Exhibition Space) leading the way. The bar was set exceptionally high- the enamelled metal, ceramic, bronze, glass, woven metal and bamboo artists from Yufuku Gallery showing unparalleled craftsmanship and innovation. What surprised me was how radically modern the works were- nothing of dated impression of Japanese porcelain and Chinese Ming vases I embarrassedly had before. It was like discovering the unseen wonders of a foreign world.
What a pity one has to wait another year to see such amazing objects!
Collect 2012 highlights
|Christina Schou Christensen, Galerie Sofie Lachaer & Caroline Van Hoek (Belgium)|
|Sidsel Hanum, stained Limoges porcelain, Galleri Format (Norway)|
|Felicity Aylieff, Clare Beck at Adrian Sassoon (UK)|
|Emmeline Hastings, perspex and titanium bangle, Lesley Craze Gallery (UK)|
|Jamie Bennett, enamelled necklace, Antonella Villanova (Italy)|
|Michihiro Sato, paper brooch, Lesley Craze Gallery (UK)|
|Tang Ming Xiu , laquer and 18th century porcelain, Hanart TZ Gallery (HK)|
|Idiot's taxidermy bird and pearl necklace, Galerie Marzee (The Netherlands)|
|The Rhizome Chair, Crook and Jones in Collect's Project Space (UK)|
All photographs taken by Christina Lai with permission from gallery/artist.