French art-deco ceramics

Kelly Gallery and 1stdibs unite for an exceptional New York show

For collectors of significant ceramics, some of the most desirable pieces date from the art-deco era when pioneering French artist-potters created simple, elegant forms with an emphasis on texture and colour. Now a comprehensive selection of work by the period’s leading ceramicists is the focus of an exciting selling exhibition at New York’s Kelly Gallery from Wednesday June 11 to Wednesday August 13, while a simultaneous presentation at 1stdibs.com means that anyone unable to visit the gallery can purchase online.

The show features more than 60 pieces from eminent names such as Emile Decoeur, Henri Simmen, Maurice Gensoli, Jean Mayodon, Louis Delachenal, Fernand Rumebe, Robert Lallemant and Jean Besnard. Collaborations with Sèvres by many art-deco artists, including Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, boosted the company’s reputation as a leading producer of the finest ceramics, and are also represented here. “I believe the art-deco period from around 1919 was an inflection point when historic changes took place in the decorative and fine arts, with Paris at the centre of this movement towards modernism,” says gallery owner Stephen E Kelly, who has collected museum-quality work from the era for more than 30 years.

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Important pieces in this comprehensive show include a monumental Sèvres lighted urn ($2m) designed by Ruhlmann for the ocean liner Ile de France in 1928. One of just two in existence, the other is in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. A rare covered Sèvres jar ($125,000, first picture), made in 1943 during the Nazi occupation of France, when artistic production was extremely limited, is wrapped with Raymond Subes’s wrought-iron cobras. And a pair of Sèvres porcelain covered jars ($60,000), presented at the 1925 Art Deco Exposition in Paris and bought by John D Rockefeller, come with the original carte de visite from the Rockefeller residence in Park Avenue.

Further highlights include a pear-shaped covered jar ($175,000) made between 1928 and 1932 by Henri Simmens, who also created a miniature jar topped with Eugenie O’Kin’s carved ivory stopper ($42,000), which has come from Karl Lagerfeld’s personal collection. Other eye-catchers include Robert Lallemant’s Le Tour du Monde vase ($3,800, second picture) from the 1930s; a bold stoneware pot ($15,000, third picture) made for Sèvres by Maurice Gensoli around 1925; Fernand Rumebe’s attractive stoneware vase ($8,000) from 1925; and a dramatic lighted urn ($140,000, fourth picture) by Jean Mayodon, exhibited in the 1937 Paris World Fair, shortly before he became Sèvres’ artistic director.

Not all the pieces are pots or vases, however. There’s a pair of Tournoi stoneware bookends ($7,500) made in the 1920s by Marcel Guillard; three Jean Besnard table lamps ($50,000), including one created for Ruhlmann around 1923; and Francois Pompon’s charming L’Ours Blanc (polar bear) figure ($24,000), created for Sèvres around 1924-1939 in biscuit porcelain. Indeed, there’s something for all connoisseurs to enjoy here.

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