Dramatic installation for the V&A's new galleries commissioned with Art Fund help

  • 23 September 2009

Independent charity The Art Fund today announces that it has given £80,000 towards a bold, new installation by critically acclaimed potter Edmund de Waal for the central dome of the V&A's new Ceramics Galleries. It will be unveiled when the galleries open on 18 September.

Signs & Wonders is a red lacquer shelf (14 metres in diameter) that runs the circumference of the ceiling dome and will sit 40 metres above the V&A’s Brompton Road entrance. 450 monochrome ceramics thrown by de Waal will be arranged on the shelf in rhythmical groupings. Each group is inspired by one of the museum’s major ceramics collections, from 18th century French porcelain to Hispano-Moorish lustre and English slipware.

On entering the museum, people will be able to look up and glimpse the arcs of Signs & Wonders; the installation in its entirety can be viewed in the contemporary ceramics room in the new sixth floor galleries.

Edmund de Waal said: "Signs & Wonders is my most ambitious project yet: a conversation between the historic collections and the contemporary. It is a conversation about collecting on the threshold of the V&A."

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund, said: "During the course of his career, Edmund de Waal has transformed the notion of what ceramics can be, culminating in this magnificent installation. Signs & Wonders encapsulates his innovative, audacious approach as well as the timeless beauty of pottery."

Reino Leifkes, Head of Ceramics at the V&A and lead curator of the Ceramics Galleries, said: "Signs & Wonders is a brilliant and bold piece of work, a perfect ‘crown’ to complete our beautiful new galleries.

"We have worked very closely with The Art Fund to realise this installation and their generous support has been key to making it happen. Over the years, the charity has helped us acquire a number of important historic pieces, and their support of contemporary art has also allowed us to acquire some large-scale new works that would normally have been beyond our reach."

Since it was founded in 1903, The Art Fund has given over £5 million to the V&A to help it acquire 285 objects. In addition, the V&A has been given 279 gifts and 58 bequests through The Art Fund.

To date, The Art Fund has given 10 works by Edmund de Waal to various museums and galleries across the UK, including a £60,000 grant towards the acquisition of the installation Wunderkammer for mima, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, in 2008.

The V&A’s new Ceramics Galleries open on 18 September 2009. Entry will be free.


Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal (b. 1964) is one of Britain’s most accomplished ceramic artists.

Having served an apprenticeship with studio potter Geoffrey Whiting in 1981-3, he went on to study English literature at the University of Cambridge. Following his graduation in 1986, he established pottery workshops in Hereford and then Sheffield, where he took a post-graduate Diploma in Japanese Language in 1991-92. A Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Scholarship then took him to Tokyo. On his return in 1993, he set up a studio in London.

From his popular and stylish domestic porcelain of the 1990s to more recent, conceptual installations, de Waal’s work has won critical acclaim beyond the world of craft. He is also a prolific writer and critic; published works include Twentieth Century Ceramics (Thames and Hudson, 2003). De Waal is also Chair of Trustees of the Crafts Study Centre at Farnham and Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster.

The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org .

The Art Fund is a Registered Charity No. 209174

The V&A’s Ceramics Galleries

For the first time in a century the V&A is redisplaying its ceramics collection, the greatest and most comprehensive in the world. The extensive new galleries tell the story of world ceramics with 3300 objects on display from the earliest Chinese pottery to contemporary ceramic art. The second phase of the redisplay (opening in 2010) will house the study collections, showing around 26,000 further objects and creating one of the world’s leading resources for scholars and artists.