Let there be light (and ceramics)

The artworks of minimalist masters Flavin, Rie and Coper make for a dazzling display in this new exhibition

Dan Flavin’s Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) 1y
Dan Flavin’s Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) 1y | Image: Stephen Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The light installations of the late American minimalist artist Dan Flavin and the sculptural works of ceramicists Hans Coper and Lucie Rie might be unlikely companions, but they will be showcased together for the first time at the Vito Schnabel Gallery in St Moritz, Switzerland from Tuesday December 19 through to Sunday February 4 in a stunning juxtaposition of material and form.

Hans Coper’s “Spade” Form
Hans Coper’s “Spade” Form | Image: Estate of the artist; collection of the estate of Dan Flavin

Dan Flavin, to Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, Master Potters will include 18 light works from Flavin’s two 1990 series ($275,000- $325,000) dedicated to the late London-based potters, alongside 15 of Rie and Coper’s vessels from the artist’s personal collection (not for sale). Together they illustrate the artists’ affinity for explorations of space and harmony.


Flavin began collecting the work of modernist potters Rie and her protégé Coper – both refugees of Nazism who later settled in London – in the 1980s. Fascinated by ceramics, the artist amassed pieces by a range of potters, but “had a particular interest in the modern sense and rigor of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper,” says Stephen Flavin, president of the Dan Flavin estate and the son of the artist, who helped to organise the exhibition. “My father met Lucie Rie in London through the British art dealer Leslie Waddington, and subsequently did the first show of the series dedicated to Rie at Leslie Waddington’s gallery.”

Hans Coper’s Angular Pot
Hans Coper’s Angular Pot | Image: Estate of the artist; collection of the estate of Dan Flavin

Among the works on view from Flavin’s twin 1990 series will be Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) 1rrr, 1990 – an entrancing combination of blue, green, yellow and pink fluorescent lights that stands 6ft tall – and Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) 1y  – an installation in a similar colour palette, but with a predominance of vibrant yellow. Sculptural, almost Cycladic vessels by Coper – including “Spade” Form and Angular Pot (works he crafted using T-material, and layered porcelain slip with a manganese finish) date from the 1950s and 1960s, while Rie’s delicate Potato Pot and Footed Bowl date from the 1970s and 1980s. In these latter works, much attention has been paid to glaze and texture – and to a repetition of form that is similar to Flavin’s works.


“There is so much of my father’s later work that hasn’t been seen in a very long time and that is, I think, very interesting,” says Stephen Flavin. “The two series dedicated to Lucie Rie and Hans Coper – Untitled (to Lucie Rie, Master Potter) and Untitled (to Hans Coper, Master Potter) – are prime examples of this and I wanted them to be seen once again.”

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