Clare Twomey: Forever

Bloch Building, Gallery L8

October 9, 2010—January 2, 2011

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In her first American solo exhibition, Forever, acclaimed British artist Clare Twomey explores ideas of permanence, responsibility, memory, desirability, value and the history and process of making ceramics.

Twomey, known for her work in ceramics as an ephemeral and temporary medium, investigates the nature of a material usually considered permanent and stable by creating interactive installations that produce feelings of surprise, wonder, joy and introspection. The temporary character of Twomey’s installations has taken different avenues—objects of unfired clay returned to their natural state when rain and other elements dissolved the forms, or thousands of fired clay components dispersed by museum visitors.

Twomey visited the Museum in 2007 and was fascinated by the Burnap Collection of English Pottery donated by Harriet and Frank Burnap in 1941. Twomey was especially interested in the breadth and depth of the 1,345 British pre-industrial ceramic works in the collection.  She was particularly attracted to an important cup in the collection—a two-handled vessel inscribed “Mrs Mary Sandbach her Cup anno dom 1720.”Cup The Cup is noted for being the earliest-known dated piece of English salt-glazed stoneware and serves as a benchmark for other works in this medium.

Twomey found further inspiration for her installation in the Burnaps’ requirements and the Museum’s responsibilities to them. The Deed of Gift for collection scrupulously outlines the care, safekeeping, display and accessibility of a collection that they had carefully assembled over decades. It repeatedly states that the works will be held by the Museum “in trust forever.”  

Working with Hartley Greens & Co. Leeds Pottery, a ceramics factory in northern England that has produced functional earthenwares since the 18th century, Twomey authored a model of the Sandbach Cup for the site-specific installation Forever. This cup was reproduced 1,345 times, honoring the number of works in the Burnap donation.

In addition to viewing the installation, visitors will have an opportunity to own a Cup. Visitors will not only be able to view the vast collection of the cups, they will also have the opportunity to become owners. Visitors will be asked to complete and sign a Deed that asks prospective owners to consider why they want the work of art, and consider why and how they value the Cup. They will be asked to sign a Deed committing them to care for a Cup forever – just as the Burnaps required the Nelson-Atkins to sign their Deed of Gift nearly 70 years ago.

Click here for a list of Selected Owners

This exhibition is supported by the Campbell-Calvin Fund and Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions and the Rheta A. Sosland Fund.

Cup, 1720. English, Staffordshire. Salt-glazed stoneware, 6 inches (15.24 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank P. Burnap, 41-23/675.

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