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playful with materials, that craft has been sidelined to the craft and renaissance fairs, where its nostalgic presence plays well. The crafts movement, ceramics included, has also suffered from art envy, an insecurity that did enormous harm, since craftspeople were considered great only if they escaped craft and entered the fine arts.

Only a few ceramicists have managed to pass through the fine-mesh filter of high arts, however: Ron Nagle, Betty Woodman, Ken Price, Kathy Butterly and some others. At the same time, more and more non-ceramic artists have adopted the medium: Anthony Caro, Kiki Smith, Jeff Koons, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Anish Kapoor. Their work is shown at A-list galleries for A-list prices. Gladstone Gallery, one of the art world’s most significant mega-galleries, opened its 2007-08 season last September with the exhibition “Makers and Modelers: Works in Ceramic,” one of six ceramics shows in Chelsea that month. Indeed, ceramics is now so ubiquitous on the New York art scene, that it is being spoken of as the “new” photography. It is an annoying misnomer for a medium that is 30,000 years old, but still reflective of its new stature. Ceramic works now sell for over $5 million (Jeff Koon’s Michael Jackson and Bubbles), shattering the porcelain price ceiling that once caused ceramics to be known in the trade as “terra worthless.”

Craft potters need to find a new role and context if they are to survive. But ceramics is now more connected to the mainstream marketplace for art and design than ever before. Its challenge will be grappling with the meaning and opportunities of its new freedoms. For years it has bemoaned its marginalization and now that it has broken through, the art of fire may be a little like the dog that spends its life chasing cars. When it actually catches one, it faces a conundrum. What is it going to do? Specialization in one medium is no longer in vogue, so ceramists are going to have explore a multimedia universe.

Evan Snyderman
R 20th Century Gallery, New York, New York
When R 20th Century opened its doors in 1997, the market for 20th-century design was just getting started. The collectibles were Eames, Noguchi and Knoll. Outside of the big names and manufacturers, little was known. We would still find things such as Laverne Tulip chairs in the garbage on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

However, in the past six years, we have seen a sea change. The first indication for us was an invitation to participate in a 20th-century fair at the Louvre des Antiquaires in Paris in 2002 and 2003. This fair pooled together the greatest dealers in the world under one roof, and collectors were introduced to a new level of 20th-century connoisseurship. In 2005, Design Miami/Basel followed up by inviting many of the same galleries to participate in a boutique, high-end design fair, held in conjunction with the mother of all art fairs, Art Basel. This provided the first public introduction of 20th-century design to the art collector.

The price of a modern design masterpiece is inconsequential compared to that of an important work of art. The fact that one can still purchase a major 20th-century work for well under $100,000 is something that many art collectors are now aware of. When a Carlo Mollino table sold for $3.8 million at Christie’s in 2005, people started to pay attention.

Midcentury Brazilian design is building great interest in the marketplace and has a lot of room to grow, since much of the great work has yet to be uncovered. Designers such as Joaquim Tenreiro, José Zanine Caldas and Sergio Rodrigues are just gaining steam and are still relatively unknown outside of Brazil. Brazilian design combines great craftsmanship, rare or exotic materials and a style that can be described only as Brazilian. The other important area is the American studio furniture movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Artist/designer/craftsmen such as Wendell Castle, Arthur Espenet Carpenter and Wharton Esherick produced some of the most innovative and expertly crafted work in America, helping to form what we now know as the Art Furniture Movement, and influenced generations of furniture makers and contemporary designers.

Michael Maharam
Principal, Maharam, New York, New York
The proliferation of the “new” — a massive infusion of good new product design — made it more challenging to sort the good from the bad than in the past. Thus, many aesthetes turned to the past, where good design had already been benchmarked, and they found interesting material, craftsmanship and form. This fed their desire for individualism in the face of an increasingly mass-produced world, where excellent exposure and distribution of new products was causing people to feel that they were becoming aesthetic lemmings. The explosion of the art market led to the realization that vintage furniture could have greater collectible appeal. This drew all the decorative arts into the collecting vacuum created by escalating art prices.

We’re in a market that is driven by obscurity, compression and manipulation; it’s all about those with marketing finesse finding something rare and propelling it into the limelight. The days of the galleries and auction houses looking back and excavating are largely over. There just isn’t enough available content with adequate investment upside. This opportunity now lives with new production of limited series by the present generation of genius, a place that more closely mirrors the art world, playing to the allure of exclusivity. This model, whose forefathers included non-mass producers from Nakashima to Kuramata, found its modern iteration initially in those like Ron Arad and Galerie Kreo, and has come to include all the Salone del Mobile darlings: individuals (Fernando and Humberto Campana, Marc Newson, Tokujin Yoshioka) and large companies alike, with the launch of the Vitra Editions Series.
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