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The Artful Teapot: 20th Century Expressions from the Kamm Collection

February 1 - May 30, 2004


The teapot has been called the most perfect of inventions. The emotional associations of the vessel are as potent as a strong brew. Friendly to use, warm to the touch, plump and comforting, the teapot forever dispenses cheer in our lives. A teapot strategically placed in theatrical or movie scenes or as illustrations in magazines and advertisements, acts as an icon for home and hearth. For 500 years, the teapot has served as the spouted, steaming engine of hospitality. (right: Edward Eberle, Teapot Study, 1992, porcelain)

The Artful Teapot: 20th Century Expressions from the Kamm Collection, on display February 1 - May 30, 2004 at Charlotte, NC's Mint Museum of Craft + Design, explores the teapot as an inventive vehicle for artistic expression. The exhibition is organized and circulated by Exhibitions International, NY, and its North Carolina appearance is sponsored by The Founders' Circle Ltd., the national support affiliate of the Mint Museum of Craft + Design.

The Artful Teapot is an exhaustive romp of sometimes bewildering forms, ranging from the elegant Chinese Yixing teapot (where this wonderful, functional object was first invented) to the infinite possibilities of form, surface and glaze employed by the artists of the 20th Century in transforming the teapot into an inventive canvas for commentary on topics as diverse as politics, sex, dreams, religion, history, architecture, satire and angst-laden relationships.

The majority of the 250 teapots by over 100 artists on display in The Artful Teapot are created by living artists, including leading craft luminaries as Richard Notkin, Betty Woodman, Adrian Saxe, Ralph Bacerra, Peter Shire, David Gilhooly and Michael Lucero. Many fine artists were commissioned by California collectors Sonny and Gloria Kamm to create many of the teapots. Others were selected from series designed by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Keith Haring, and Cindy Sherman. Architects and designers are also represented by the likes of talent such as Christopher Dresser, Walter Gropius, and Michael Graves. The anonymous folk potter and the outsider artist also have a place at this most eclectic table. (left: Richard Marquis, Retro Stuff: Stars and Stripes, 1997, glass)

No surprise then, that teapots made from tin cans, ivory, rock salt, beads, coconuts, and ostrich eggs compete for the viewer's perceptual attention as strongly as teapots that solicit an aesthetic appreciation for the workmanship with traditional teapot materials such as ceramic, glass and metal.

"One of the great challenges for an artist is to make a great teapot," stated guest curator Garth Clark. "It's a matter of proportion, balance and function. You've got to be able to produce a main body balanced against two linear elements, the spout and handle. It sounds easy, but it's actually quite a difficult thing to do, even more so if you're going to do something distinctive and unique."

The Artful Teapot carries on a dialogue with its own past and present and even does so through diverse cultural voices by artists Ettore Sottsass, Piet Stockmans, Ah Leon, and Arman. The exhibition also features archival drawings, photographs, prints and a video that documents the history of the teapot and the arrival of tea in the West.

An adjunct exhibition, Timeless Teapots: Selections from the Mint Museum of Art Collection, will be on display February 28 - July 17, 2004 at the Mint Museum of Art on Randolph Road. The exhibition provides an historic and cultural background to the western practice of tea that began in Europe in the late 17th Century. Featured will be 300 years of teapots from leading European potteries such as Meissen, Staffordshire, and Wedgwood and leading American and North Carolina potteries and potters. (right: Micael Lucero, Female Roman Statue, Reclamation Series, 1996, earthenware, plaster, paint)

Barring the 19thi Century addition - the built-in sieve to hold back tea leaves, the basic teapot form has withstood the onslaughts of many designers intent on improving it, resisting five centuries of reinvention.

The Artful Teapot, a full-color, 256 page catalogue by Garth Clark, is published in hardcover by Thames & Hudson, while a soft cover edition is published by Watson Guptill; the catalogue is available at the Mint Museum Shops.

Exhibitions International, a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) organization in New York City, seeks to promote the exchange of ideas in the visual arts. Its primary focus is the development and circulation of art exhibitions to museums in North America and around the world. Exhibitions International has a reputation for groundbreaking exhibitions on design, architecture, and the decorative arts.

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