"Conversation Piece" Auction of unique Dutch contemporary ceramics based on Dutch Old Master paintings to benefit the Wallace Collection

Seven unique ceramic works by Dutch contemporary designers and artists, inspired by Dutch old master paintings in the Wallace Collection, are to be offered for sale in a silent auction on the occasion of the re-opening of the Dutch Galleries at the Wallace Collection in London.

The famous Dutch Galleries of the Wallace Collection will officially be re-opened on Thursday, 19 April 2012, following a major refurbishment. To mark the occasion, the Wallace Collection has invited a group of Dutch contemporary designers and artists to create seven ceramic table centrepieces. The project is sponsored by Bonhams auctioneers.

The resulting unique works of art, which were inspired by the Dutch old master paintings in the Wallace Collection, will be offered for sale in a silent auction to benefit the museum.

A sneak preview of the works of art will be held at Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR, to coincide with the exhibitions of Bonhams' forthcoming auctions of Contemporary and Urban art from Sunday, March 25 – Thursday, March 29. For more information on how to bid visit our special web-page at www.bonhams.com/events or contact Amy Randall at the Wallace Collection +44 (0)20 7563-9567, amy.randall@wallacecollection.org. Bids are invited from Sunday 25th March 2012.

The silent auction will conclude on Thursday, 19th April 2012, at the official re-opening of the Dutch Galleries at the Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London.

Clare O'Brien, Director of Development and Marketing at the Wallace Collection, comments: "We are thrilled that these original, inventive pieces have been made to help the work of the Wallace Collection."

Nette Megens of Bonhams European Ceramics and Glass Department comments: "Bonhams is delighted to sponsor this initiative in aid of the Wallace Collection. We hope that there will be a great deal of interest in these unique and inspired works."

The project, which was initiated by Dutch designers Krijn Christiaansen and Cathelijne Montens, is titled Conversation Piece, after the painterly genre of informal group portraits of which the most famous example is Rembrandt's Night Watch. The term later acquired an additional meaning, referring to elaborate table centrepieces – particularly those made of ceramics – that are designed to spark conversation among guests at a table. Starting with this double meaning, which unites Dutch old master paintings and ceramic design, the pair formed an informal group of designers and artists, each of whom was asked to create a large and unique ceramic table centrepiece inspired by a particular work or genre from the Dutch Galleries at the Wallace Collection.

The project's participants are visual artists Marina De Caro (AR) and Goele Dewanckel (BE), and designers Joris Landman (NL) and Novak (NL). While used to working in a broad range of disciplines, including graphic design and sculpture, most of the artists were new to the medium of ceramics, and the results are beautiful, imaginative and original.

For example, Cathelijne Montens began by looking at still-life paintings in the Wallace Collection that include dead animals. Working with a taxidermist, she used real animal bodies to cast beautiful stoneware moulds that result in textured objects of great tactile quality and character. Novak (Rene Tichelaar and Eva van der Schans) used their graphic design skills to translate pottery vessels depicted in 17th-century Dutch paintings to real works of art. They then combined these objects to form an entirely new composition, adding the illusion of light found in the paintings from which they are derived. The other artists in the project used similarly imaginative and varied processes to create their works of art.

The ideas for these conversation pieces were developed and realised over a five-week period at Sundaymorning@ekwc: a Dutch artist-in-residence centre at the forefront of international ceramic art and design.

Ranti Tjan, Director of the Sundaymorning@ekwc, comments: "The artists and designers in this project combined inspired cultural heritage and inventive experiments to create a stimulating collection of ceramic one-offs."

Cathelijne Montens, Dutch designer and project initiator, comments: "It has been a wonderful opportunity for all of us to be able to realise this project, which aims to meaningfully connect the Wallace Collection's classic Dutch old masters to contemporary art and design."

Funds raised from the project will aid in two important publications: the first volume of the Wallace Collection's sculpture catalogue, and the Director's Choice book of highlights from the collection.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

  1. Nette Megens
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
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