A Bacchanalian-Themed Ceramics Fair

A Bacchanalian celebration of pleasure and passion isn’t normally the first thing one thinks of when it comes to a ceramics show.

But this is no ordinary ceramics show.

It’s the New York Ceramics Fair, opening today and running through Friday.

Front and center is a display of 20 plates, cups, teapots and chalices – some contemporary and some antique, but all designed around the ancient Roman concept of wild parties and excess in the name of pleasure and culture.

“It’s the first thing you see when you get off the elevator,” says curator Leslie Ferrin. “It’s a combination of contemporary pieces and history, for collectors. It’s about how contemporary artists are using ceramic history today.”

Among the items on display are a 24-inch piece by artist Kurt Weiser called Fruit Story and another, 18-inches-high, by Michelle Erickson and called Rake’s Progress. Each is expected to fetch $18,000; other pieces in the show range from $500 up.

But all work within the themes of passion, eroticism, sexuality, abundance, and excess of food and wine, in figural sculpture, animated painted vessels and still life from the 16th century through today. To convey all that, Ferrin invited participating dealers at the fair to submit historic objects to be juxtaposed with the work of  contemporary artists.

“It’s about how these contemporary artists, looking for historic inspiration, are inspired to ask questions about sources and imagery material,” she says. “The dealers here, some handling Staffordshire figurines, can see these contemporary pieces drawn from that.”

The idea, she says, is to explore preconceived notions about ceramics through the lens of contemporary artists. “You’ll find it amusing, and recognize a lot of historical precedents,” she says. “Besides, everyone has a teapot story.”

But not necessarily a Bacchanalian one.

The show opens at 12 noon today in the Grand Ballroom at the Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street.

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