Elective Affinities: Edmund de Waal at The Frick Collection

Porcelain object in front of Ingres oil painting

The Frick Collection will present a temporary installation of the work of sculptor Edmund de Waal—a rich juxtaposition of new site-specific objects displayed in the main galleries of the museum, alongside works from the permanent collection. Acclaimed as both an artist and writer, de Waal is known for his installations of porcelain vessels housed in minimal structures, often created in response to collections and archives or the history of a specific place. His approach is particularly suited to the setting of a museum like the Frick, and this project marks the first such installation done by the artist in the United States. The presentation, curated by Charlotte Vignon, the Frick’s Curator of Decorative Arts, is the latest in a series of collaborations with de Waal and The Frick Collection. He is a co-author, with Vignon, of an upcoming volume in the Frick Diptych series. The publication, which will be available in May, focuses on a pair of porcelain candelabras with gilt-bronze mounts by Pierre Gouthière, the great French eighteenth-century chaser-gilder. In 2013, in conjunction with the Frick Art Reference Library’s Center for the History of Collecting, de Waal lectured about his award-winning family memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010). A fully illustrated catalogue, featuring installation views and essays by Vignon and de Waal, will be available later this spring.

Comments Ian Wardropper, Director of The Frick Collection, “I am thrilled that the Frick will be collaborating with Edmund de Waal on this project, and it is a fitting continuation of our warm and collaborative relationship. I have long admired his body of work and his installations in places similar to the Frick—like Waddesdon Manor and Chatsworth House. As an institution focused on collecting and its history, a natural next step in the dialogue was to invite Edmund to respond to the Frick’s gallery spaces and collection with his works of art.”

The sculptures de Waal is creating for the installation—made of porcelain, steel, gold, marble and glass—will echo the materials used not only for the works of art in the permanent collection but also for the house itself, which the artist considers a sculpture in its own right. The use of steel also references the way in which Henry Clay Frick, the museum’s founder, amassed his fortune. De Waal’s installations will be designed to catch the light from nearby sources (both natural and artificial), and will resonate with what the artist refers to as the aura of the historic mansion and the extraordinary works of art it contains.

Major support for the installation is provided by Agnes Gund, Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Horvitz, Kathleen and Martin Feldstein, Margot and Jerry Bogert, the Eugene M. Lang Foundation, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Louisa Stude Sarofim, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Saul, and by Jane Richards in honor of Elizabeth Eveillard.

About Edmund de Waal

De Waal’s art and literature speak to his fascination with the nature of objects and the narratives of their collection and display. With his interventions and artworks, de Waal explores themes of diaspora, memorial, materiality, as well as the color white; and through his written and artistic practice, he has broken new critical ground in the history and potential of ceramics, and in architecture, music, dance, and poetry. His recent museum exhibitions include responses to the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (Artipelag, Stockholm, 2017); to the writings of Voltaire (Espace Muraille, Geneva, 2017); and to the collection of the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, with a focus on the theme of anxiety (2016). 

De Waal is also the author of The White Road: Journey into an Obsession, a personal narrative about the history of porcelain (2015). 

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