It’s out and it’s on!
Last Saturday I joined Graham Cooley at the King’s Lynn Arts Centre in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, to launch Alla Moda, the exhibition behind my latest book. With over 750 ceramics on display, Graham’s private collection is almost certainly the largest private collection of Italian ceramics in Europe, if not the world.
The main room houses a truly stunning display of ceramics by major makers, and is dominated by a central grouping of hexagonal pedestals displaying Bitossi ceramics from the 1950s-80s. Even if you think you know Bitossi, you’re sure to find many surprises here. We know this as a number of dedicated Bitossi collectors kindly joined us for the launch, and all went home with dozens of ‘new’ ranges to look out for and add to their collections. Fans of Bitossi designer Aldo Londi’s famous ‘Rimini Blu’ range will be delighted by the 100+ pieces on display, which include his hotly sought-after stylised animals, and some very rare forms and glazes. Just because it’s Bitossi and blue, it doesn’t mean it’s ‘Rimini Blu’…come along and find out what I mean…
If Bitossi isn’t big enough (and believe me, it is), those looking for ‘the next big thing’ will find more to tempt on the back wall, where two wide shelves display the work of a ‘forgotten’ factory. I’m not going to tell you who it is here – you’ll have to visit the exhibition or buy my book (preferably both) to find out. All I can tell you is that it’s a VERY BIG thing, and you will certainly have seen these ceramics before at a fair or in a shop and wondered who made them. Come along and find out so you don’t pass them by again – you’ll kick yourself if you don’t! So far Graham and I have identified dozens of ranges and attributed them to this factory, but we feel that there are many more out there. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s so much more to find, and find out.
A separate barn houses over 100 ceramics produced by the many factories based on San Marino. You’ll know the ones I mean – the most commonly found designs have sgrafitto designs of lady’s heads with stylish hairstyles on red background. A textured, rock-like glaze in brown, black and white, or grey is also another hallmark feature. These are complimented by ceramics produced in and around Florence in the style of Marcello Fantoni, ceramics produced in Deruta, and vibrantly coloured, eccentric ceramics produced by an unknown designer known only as the ‘Flower Painter’.
The launch itself was very well attended, with over 250 collectors and design and vintage fans coming across the day to see and learn. I spent the morning appraising and valuing 20thC ceramics, and Graham took small groups on friendly tours of his collection.
I know I’m kind of involved in it all, but even I was staggered by the scale and importance of the pieces on display. It also looks wonderful together. There were many new additions since I completed photography for the book, all of which I would have loved to have included – so the only place to see them is there.
When Graham and I start work on these subjects, one of the most important first steps is to gather everything together in one room. Once you do that, threads start to form in terms of shape, glaze types and colours. When you see all of these highly diverse ceramics together and displayed so well, it will all make sense. I guarantee that you’ll see these ceramics in a completely new light once you’ve seen this exhibition.
Once again, Graham and the astoundingly talented and hard-working team at the Arts Centre have pulled out all the stops and produced a truly stunning, ground-breaking show. So many visitors exclaimed that this could very easily be the next ‘Fat Lava’. Go! Be there at the start! The exhibition is free to enter, and runs until 19th August. Check out www.kinglynnarts.co.uk to find out more.
It’s out and it’s on!