Although Collect has been around for a decade and a half, the international buzz around this London-based fair for museum-quality craftwork has sharply spiked recently. This year's edition was as big and bold as ever, encompassing more than 40 galleries showcasing the latest artisanal work from hundreds of artist-designer-craftspeople, and displays spread over three floors of the prestigious Saatchi Gallery. With so much to discover, here is just a taste of what Collect 2019 had to offer.
Network Bowl in Carrara marble by Jean Briac, 2019
The first collection that caught our eye was a series of marble bowls by Jean Briac for Barcelona-based gallery Galeria Rubén Torres. Since its foundation in 2013, the gallery has become a popular destination for international collectors seeking the finest works of local artists producing pieces in wood, glass, ceramics, and marble. Jean Briac is originally from France but lives in Barcelona and has over 15 years experience in stonework, including participation in the restoration of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Lluís Domènech i Montaner's Hospital de Sant Pau. The artist starts with a large block of fine white Italian marble or locally sourced Gris Pulpis marble from Catalonia and carves it into highly organic shapes, achieving a sculptural delicacy and softness that belies the robust and heavy nature of his chosen medium.
Dissonance Series by Cathryn Shilling for Vessel Gallery
There was no shortage of remarkable glass work at the fair. But the glass presented by London’s Vessel Gallery stood out, especially Cathryn Shilling’s Dissonance. The series consisted of large, rippling sculptures of woven glass that appear to be more like fabric than hard, inflexible glass. The London-based artist, who won the V&A’s "Inspired By" award for glass in 2009, has an experimental approach that reaches extraordinary results.
Peony by Lena Bergström for Vessel Gallery
Another Vessel Gallery glass designer who finds a surprising malleability in glass is Lena Bergström. This well-known Swedish artist originally studied textiles at the prestigious Konstfack school in Stockholm but went on to experiment with the fluidity of glass. Her Peony in Smokey Grey has all the right curves.
Aphelion by Heike Brachlow, 2018
Bullseye Projects, a contemporary glass gallery from Portland, Oregan, displayed an array of eye-catching cast glass sculptures in twisted sweeping shapes and bold translucent hues. These were by Heike Brachlow, an internationally exhibited German artist who graduated with a Ph.D. from the Royal College of Art in 2012. Her pieces are capable of transformation, depending on the angle from which they are viewed.
Thousand Kilometres Landscape by Wan Liya for China Design Centre
Throughout the show, there were plenty of beautiful ceramic works to contemplate, from the modest to the elaborate. On the more complex end of the spectrum is Wan Liya’s Thousand Kilometres Landscape (2015) for China Design Centre. Inspired by a famous Chinese painting of the same title, it's a collection of painted porcelain objects that are shaped like everyday, disposable household vessels, such as spray cleaners and shampoo bottles. A graduate of a Chinese Naval Academy, the artist was spurred to refocus on his artistic passion after a work injury; he's fascinated by traditional Chinese art and how contemporary society has evolved. A sense of this conflict is conveyed on many of his painted ceramic works.
Eclipse Bowls by Sara Moorhouse for Petronilla Silver Gallery
A different approach to ceramics was seen in the bright, geometrically patterned bowls by Sara Moorhouse for London’s Petronilla Silver Gallery. The Welsh artist is particularly interested in the relationship between color and spatial perception, and her color block series invites viewers to peer into the interiors to see lines connect through negative space and across the bowls.
Geometric Ceramic Sculptures by Sun Kim, 2019
Muted ceramic creations were on show at Cavaliero Finn in the forms of Sun Kim geometric vessels. The London-based Korean artist was born in Saudi Arabia and grew up in Brazil before graduating with a BA in Ceramics from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2003. Primarily concerned with the relationship between the traditional and the contemporary, Sun embraces an array of techniques, from wheel throwing to hand building and assembling.
Silver-White Porcelain Moon Jars by Kim Pan-Ki and Yang Ji-Woon for Icheon Ceramics
Icheon Ceramic’s exhibition stand also offered plenty of contemporary ceramics in muted tones. Icheon City, Korea boasts a tradition of artisanship that is over 1000 years old, and in 2010 the city became designated as a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art. I was particularly drawn to the shimmering collaborative works of ceramic master Kim Pan-Ki and ceramicist Yang Ji-Woon. Kim created the white porcelain moon jar bodies and Yang varnished the surface with 92.5% pure silver of each piece. Due to silver’s natural oxidization process, these mutable works will be continuously reborn as they age.
Spey Bench by Angus Ross for Craft Scotland
There wasn't a lot of furniture on display at Collect, but one piece that caught my eye was a wooden bench by Angus Ross for Craft Scotland. This artist is concerned with structure, function, and sustainability—creating museum-quality contemporary furniture from sustainable oak sourced from a woodland that he co-owns. Merging the ancient art of steam-bending with modern technology, he creates pieces that are defined by flowing lines and the natural beauty of Scottish oak. For Collect 2019, he created his Spey Bench inspired by the rivers of Scotland.
Curved Block Seat by Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley for Oxford Ceramics Gallery
The Oxford Ceramics Gallery also had some interesting wood furniture on show, especially Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley’s Curved Block Seat, which was shortlisted for the Loewe Foundation’s prestigious Craft Prize 2019. Carved from solid blocks of oak, Partridge and Walmsley’s approach to making furniture is both sculptural and functional while celebrating the inherent qualities of their chosen materials.
Elizabeth GaffneyBorn in the UK and raised in Canada and Ireland, Elizabeth studied English and French Literature at University College Dublin before moving to London to study fashion when she was 21. Upon graduating with a BA in Fashion Design from Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in 2007, she started up a luxury online shopping guide, which led her into the realm of digital content creation, where she has been working ever since. Still based in London, she is passionate about all aspects of design, contemporary art and storytelling. Electronic music plays another big part in her life and she produces and DJs under the name Channel 11 whenever time allows or the occasion arises.
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