Follow Us on Twitter

white: a project by Edmund de Waal - Royal Academy of Arts

Exhibition preview

FROM September 26, 2015 to January 3, 2016, the Royal Academy of Arts will present white, a project conceived and curated by the artist and writer, Edmund de Waal.

On display throughout the Library and Print Room of the Royal Academy, the exhibition will be a personal exploration of the colour white, an expression of de Waal’s ongoing fascination with its use, meanings and impact.

De Waal has chosen over 40 works from the RA Collection and private collections including sculpture, paintings, photographs and books, to interweave throughout the Library. It is the first time this space at the RA has been curated by an artist.

White is not a neutral colour: it forces other colours to reveal themselves. Its blankness suggests both beginnings and endings, while its purity evokes impossibility and obsession. With a connection to abstraction, minimalism and the spiritual, white has had special significance to artists across generations. It has fascinated de Waal since he made his first white pot as a child.

The exhibition endeavours to look at white as both object and experience. Works will include J.M.W. Turner’s porcelain palette, a white-washed sculpture by Cy Twombly, John Cage’s 4’33’’ manuscript, Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Teapot, the death mask of Francis Chantrey RA, the life mask of Thomas Banks RA and the ivory netsuke of a hare with amber eyes (pictured).

One of the first pieces of white porcelain made in the West, a delicate Meissen cup of 1715, will also feature alongside porcelain installations by de Waal. This is a project in a working library, a quiet journey of discovery through the spaces.

Edmund de Waal is an artist whose work is exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, won the RSL Ondaatje prize and the Costa Biography Award. In 2015, he was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction by Yale University.

Tickets: All tickets £5. Under 16s go free. Timed entry slots will operate. Booking is essential.

Library and Print Room Opening Hours: Open to public: Thursday to Sunday, 10am – 6pm (Fridays until 10pm). Closed: Monday to Wednesday. The RA Library is open to readers by appointment Mondays to Wednesdays only.

Publication: To coincide with the project at the Royal Academy, Edmund de Waal’s The White Road: a pilgrimage of sorts will be published by Chatto & Windus on September 24, 2015.

The White Road is acclaimed author and artist Edmund de Waal’s intimate journey in search of porcelain, a substance he has been obsessed with for most of his life. It is a journey across continents that begins in Jingdezhen, China, the birthplace of porcelain, and continues to Venice, Versailles, Dublin, Dresden, the Appalachian Mountains of South Carolina and the English south-west.

Evening Event: Edmund de Waal and Aurora Orchestra – in the Reynolds Room on Monday, November 9 (6.30pm – 7.30pm). Tickets: £25/£20 reductions (includes a drink).

Celebrate On White, a collaborative festival exploring the meaning of white, with the artist and writer Edmund de Waal joining forces with Aurora Orchestra to commission a new work by the Scottish composer Martin Suckling. This performance is a reflection of the conversations that can be had between the musical and the visual. Edmund de Waal’s new book, The White Road, will be on sale following the event.

To book, call 020 7300 5839 or visit

Image: The Hare with Amber Eyes, c.1880. Ivory netsuke with inlaid amber eyes and coloured buffalo horn, signed Masatoshi. 37 cm. L. Osaka. Almost certainly by the Masatoshi known as Sawaki Rizo. Collection of Edmund De Waal. Photographer: Michael Harvey.