How did you get started with your business?
I’ve always had an interest in the arts. Early on in my career it was in music, however I have been collecting contemporary craft for many years and in 2012 I established Taste Contemporary Craft. I started with one exhibition in 2014 at Blondeau & Cie in Geneva. His support at the beginning made all the difference. In 2015 I was asked by Artgenève to curate a large space showcasing the best in contemporary craft which was another fantastic opportunity. I now regularly exhibit both at Artgenève and Artmonte-carlo and they have also asked me to become the specialist on contemporary craft. I recently opened a small gallery space in central Geneva on Rue Abraham Constantin where I also present exhibitions and meet with collectors.
Taste Contemporary Craft focuses on high quality, unique objects, which I choose for their importance, innovation and craftsmanship. I work with, and represent, artists who work in a number of disciplines such as glass, wood, metal and textiles as well as ceramics of course, which is attracting increasing attention from the art world. I am currently working with a number of established ceramic artists such as Alison Britton as well as emerging names like Aneta Regel.
What are your favourite pieces in your Geneva showroom, if you could choose only one or two out of the many pieces on display?
I have a number of works by Alison Britton at the moment including a wall-mounted piece called ‘Dishevel’. Right now, that’s one of my favourite pieces. Alison Britton, who is British, is hugely well known and respected in the ceramic art world. I love her painterly style, the way she uses clay as a canvas to paint on. If you look at her biography and see the list of the museums who have collected her work such as Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; The British Museum and National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, you will understand how important her work is and yet you can still buy a piece for under 10,000 CHF. This is what I am trying to do; show collectors that you can buy a museum-quality piece by an artist of this calibre for much less than a painting with the same provenance. I also love the work by Johannes Nagel and Aneta Regel, up and coming young artists who are so very talented.
Is there still a bias against craft / functional pieces in the art world?
A bias against craft certainly still exists – for example people sometimes tell me not to use the word ‘craft’ but I think we need to change perceptions, explain what it means to be an artist who creates contemporary craft objects. Remember there was a time when craft was at the same level as fine art, in the late 18th and early 19th century for example, and then there was modernism, which brought about the notion of conceptualism and the whole craft world quietly fell away. Actually Alison Britton once said to me that craft has never been away, it’s just been re-discovered in recent years. This is a very important point – what I am trying to show people with Taste Contemporary Craft.
Do you think there are any artists you can point to who have been leading the way in the resurgence of the popularity of craft and ceramics?
People like Grayson Perry, who won the Turner Prize 2003, have drawn attention to craft and so more people are discovering or re-discovering it.
I think the status of contemporary craft right now is similar to that of photography in the 1970’s and into the 1980’s when photography was not included in art fairs, because it was not considered art. But look at it now. Back then people who couldn’t afford paintings, but still enjoyed collecting art, collected photography. Now, it’s totally accepted as art and as a result the price of photography has gone through the roof. Recently a photograph at auction went for a record price of many millions.
Discussions about what is art continue and will continue. I want the unique pieces made by the artist I represent, to be known as contemporary craft and be valued just as highly as paintings.
What was selling at Artgenève Art Fair this year and how did the fair go for you?
At this year’s Artgenève buyers were mostly interested in ceramics and wood. Aneta Regel, Philip Eglin, Alison Britton and Johannes Nagel’s work sold well and Ernst Gamperl’s large wood pieces were highly prized. Buyers also seem to be mostly interested in large-scale sculptural pieces, not smaller works.
We have buyers who have collected contemporary craft for many years but also people who are just discovering the work. One gentleman said, ‘this is a whole new world opening up for me’. This is wonderful to see – the excitement of people discovering something new. I often hear people say that contemporary craft is c’est suprenant’, ‘It’s surprising!’ I really enjoy sharing my passion and expertise and with people, advising them on craft, helping them to build collections, which include examples of the best contemporary craft available at present.
How does Artgenève compare with Artmonte-carlo?
Each fair is different; Artmonte-carlo is a very new fair and a different audience to Artgenève. This year at Artmonte-carlo we focused on work by 7 ceramic artists who regularly exhibit with Taste.
You have an Advisory Committee listed on your website – how have they helped you with your business?
I have been incredibly fortunate with all the support I have received from many people who generously shared their time, expertise, experience and friendship. This has been one of the best part of setting up Taste!
Musee Ariana is the national museum of ceramics and glass, located in Geneva – do you work with them?
I am so proud of the fact that many of the artists I work with, such as Johannes Nagel, AnneMarie Laureys, Paul March and Caroline Slotte, have had their work included in the Musée Ariana contemporary collection. It only reinforces the importance of this work. The museum has also asked me to curate an exhibition for them in in 2018 which will run from May to October. I am very honoured to have been asked and look forward to working with them on the exhibition.
What else is coming up for you?
In June I am presenting an exhibition entitled ‘Moonstruck’ at the gallery at Rue Abraham Constantin featuring Moon Jars by 3 artists. This includes a traditional moon jar by the Korean born artist Dae-sup Kwon as well as work by 2 fantastic young ceramic artists currently working in the UK – Adam Buick and Akiko Hirai. The vernissage takes place on June 8th, on an almost full moon. In September, I am exhibiting at the inaugural Tresor Contemporary Craft Fair. I will have a quite a large space so I am busy preparing for this exciting new fair. I will be very busy for the rest of this year with a lot of exciting things coming up.
This interview was first published in June, 2017.