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Collect 2008 - Victoria and Albert Museum

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

COLLECT: the international art fair for contemporary objects will be staged at the Victoria and Albert Museum from January 25 to January 29, 2008. Organised by the Crafts Council UK, the fair is now in its fifth year and is firmly established as the most prestigious event of its kind in the world.

It provides a unique opportunity to view and buy the most desirable and collectible contemporary craft from around the globe within the distinguished setting of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world’s largest and finest museum of decorative arts.

Collect 2008 has over 400 international artists represented by 42 galleries from 16 countries, including 19 from the UK and 23 from as far afield as Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands and Scandinavia. Ten new galleries will be exhibiting in 2008, of which seven are from abroad, including Galleri Montan, Denmark; The Glassery, Sweden; and Guil-Guem Metal Research Centre, Korea.

Collect provides a unique platform for buying museum-quality objects by established masters as well as rising stars in an environment that is rich in knowledge and expertise. Eminent masters include furniture maker John Makepeace OBE, glass artist Wendy Ramshaw CBE RDI, ceramicist Hans Stofer, silversmith Junko Mori, textile artist Audrey Walker and jeweller Dorothea Prühl.

A generation of emerging talent includes Sebastian Buescher, who uses octopuses in alcohol and the arms of toy dolls to create surreal and absurd jewellery while Daniel Fisher kneads, presses and stretches thrown clay to produce fluid, paper-like ceramics.

Highlights of Collect 2008 include Monumental Pots, a feature organised by Clare Beck at Adrian Sassoon Gallery, UK, that will present rarely produced large-scale pots by four of the UK’s most revered potters – Felicity Aylieff, Kate Malone, Rupert Spira and Julian Stair; and a solo display of work by Korean living national treasure Jung Sil Hong presented by Guil-Guem Metal Arts Research Center, Korea.

Stunning objects across all disciplines are represented. By exploring the optical qualities of glass and light Slovakian glass master Oliver Leššo at Plateaux Gallery, UK, creates transparent, solid pieces with delicate icy, frosted honeycomb arrangements within. Newcomer Tevita Havea at Glass Artists’ Gallery, Australia, draws on his Tongan heritage by using weaving techniques to bind together the sculptural elements of wood and glass.

From The Netherlands, Contemporary Art Gallery will present the elegant and poetic signature porcelain slip and blue cobalt pieces of Piet Stockmans, one of the most celebrated ceramicists in Belgium. In contrast the glazed white ceramic sculptures of Kim Simonsson at Galleria Norsu, Finland, seem at first glance to be delicate and innocent but on closer inspection reveal a darker nature commenting on violence, religion and sexuality.

Sarah Myerscough Fine Art, UK, will represent some of the finest wood artists in the world. Respected American wood turners David Ellsworth and Philip Moulthrop will show alongside British duo Martin and Dowling who recently premiered their limewood carving, using the metaphor of landscape as body, as part of the Crafts Council at the V&A showcase programme.

Susan Cross and Adam Paxon, the 2007 Jerwood Applied Arts Prize joint winners, will be exhibiting with The Scottish Gallery and Clare Beck at Adrian Sassoon respectively. Although they have a shared connection in the use of complex structure and layering in their work, aesthetically they seem polar opposites. Cross’ elegant oxidised silver pieces contrast with Paxon’s DayGlo acrylic works that look like squirming creatures.

David Clarke at Galerie SO, Switzerland, breathes new life into silverware in his witty and arresting juxtapostioning of old and new silver pieces – his “Brouhaha teapot’” was bought for the V&A at Collect 2007. Taiwanese silversmith Li-Sheng Cheng at Bluecoat Display Centre, UK, produces startling and exquisite work that has the disturbing appearance of foreign bodies bubbling away under the surface.

New exhibitor West Dean Tapestry Studio will be showing the work of Katherine Swailes, Jo Howard and Caron Penney that has resulted from many years of research for a new piece for Stirling Castle based on the medieval tapestry Hunt of the Unicorn.

Collect provides the opportunity to enhance and start collections of the most innovative and coveted contemporary craft. Sales to international craft curators, collectors and enthusiasts at Collect 2007 totalled over £1 million during the event, rising to over £2 million through commissions and subsequent sales.

A number of significant contributions to public and private collections were made including Mint Museum of Crafts and Design USA, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and 12 acquisitions were made for the V&A, adding to its celebrated collection.

Rosy Greenlees, Executive Director of the Crafts Council, said: “Collect was an instant hit with international collectors when it opened in 2004 and continues to attract people who are really passionate about high quality craft.”

Victoria and Albert Museum (Exhibition Courts), Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL.

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