The internationally known potter and best selling author Edmund de Waal has donated a new work, to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Comprising 20 porcelain vessels in 3 aluminium, glass and plexiglass vitrines, the work was created by de Waal specifically for the bureau bookcase in the Fitzwilliam’s Lower Marlay Gallery and forms part of his intervention On White: Porcelain Stories from the Fitzwilliam, which is showing at the Museum to 23 February 2014.
On White explores the thousand-year story of porcelain, and the obsession, from China to Europe, with this impossibly white material. The intervention creates dialogues between historic pieces of porcelain ware and contemporary works by de Waal, highlighting unique objects from the history of porcelain production, from ancient Song and Ming dynasty vessels from China, to Meissen and Venetian pots in Europe. In preparation for the intervention, Edmund de Waal made a research trip to Jingdezhen, China, the birthplace of porcelain production. Porcelain wares from Jingdezhen are included in the displays, and Edmund de Waal’s experiences in China and research into the history of porcelain will also be part of his next book, which will explore this journey of porcelain and fascination with the colour white.
In plain sight is a semi-concealed display, created to sit in the Georgian oak bureau bookcase in the Lower Marlay Gallery, where the Museum’s European and Japanese porcelain is exhibited. De Waal’s contemporary vessels contrast with the permanent displays of historic porcelain around them. De Waal observed: “There is a real pleasure in hiding things; it allows for serendipitous, unconnected and unexpected encounters to happen, for discoveries away from your favourite known paths and places. Not everything has to been found easily, quickly downloaded. Concealing things in museums is especially worthwhile.” Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum commented: “This is a very handsome gesture by Edmund de Waal, and a wonderful legacy of his exhibition – which is just the finale of a project which started years ago, with a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad trip to Jingdezhen, China, for the Stories of the World artist exchanges.
Visitors will enjoy discovering these contemporary pieces amongst the gallery of European and Japanese porcelain.” In plain sight will remain in the Lower Marlay Gallery (26) after On White closes at the end of February.