From New York to Jingdezhen: The evolution of Chinese ceramics across the globe

By Jared Fitzgerald | 23 June 2015

Jared Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Fine Arts on the febrile Chinese ceramic art scene ahead of Masterpiece London Art Fair 2015

a circular blue tinged painting of mountains at night
Mansheng Wang, Snowing Night, 2007© Fitzgerald Fine Arts
The manner and extent of a culture’s spending on the arts is always informed by the political landscape. This is clearly illustrated when looking at the Chinese export of porcelain and makes the business of working in this area so dynamic.

Jingdezhen, the ‘capital of ceramics’, where even the lampposts are made of porcelain has been the centre of ceramic production for nearly 2,000 years. This inventive city is home to 1.7 million people as well as a hive of significant commercial factories, smaller ceramics plants and artists’ studios.

This historic city’s artistic roots have shaped China for centuries but due to political reasons in the twentieth century the rest of the world was excluded from observing this output. Under Mao Zedong’s rule it was not possible to export Chinese contemporary fine art.

China’s commercial market for art is rapidly growing and gaining shape under changed political rule. It is in a febrile state with a great number of talented contemporary artists now being able to share their works and innovation with a global audience.

Because of this, demands for eastern art are developing quickly. With a gallery in New York and artist studios in Beijing, Jingdezhen and Hong Zhou, FitzGerald Fine Arts are well placed to track the market for contemporary Chinese ceramics.

a porcelain painted panel with a two halves of a bowl shape washed with blue paint
Gan Daofu, Link 1, Jingdezhen Porcelain Panel© Fitzgerald Fine Arts
The fast growing number of galleries, auction houses and museums on mainland China is reflective of the nation’s appetite to engage and even compete with the western commercial art market.

There are cultural differences in the way these bodies operate because the eastern market has sprung into life based on a western model but inevitably there will be disparities in processes.

Transparency of information and procedures work differently for Chinese artists, critics and museums and it is interesting to participate in a different manner of working. As time goes on, the divergences will become smaller and eventually align.

Ceramics have a constantly evolving position within the wider contemporary arts scene and have moved away from their original craft status. The immensely complex and varied processes of firing and glazing offer a whole world of technical skill and ingenuity for the artist to make their own.

This increase in value of ceramics is reflected in their growing global appeal. The increasing popularity of ceramics is assisted by attention being drawn to legendary artists having a serious penchant for ceramics among their more famous mediums.

a photo of a large round pot with a black and white design and a small neck
Jared Fitzgerald, Writing 9 Temple Jar, Jingdezhen Porcelain© Fitzgerald Fine Arts
For example, Sotheby’s recent sale of Pablo Picasso’s important ceramics tripled the pre-sale estimate to realise over £1,700,000. The sale comprised a mixture of valuable and rare pieces alongside more attainable works; the success of the sale is illustrated through seven of the top ten prices establishing records for the subjects.

The appetite for ceramics, propagated by famous dealers such as Adrian Sassoon sharing their passion for the subject, will continue to grow, as there is worldwide demand for innovative new styles and techniques within an art market that is always looking for the next big thing.

A fascinating product of China’s political developments is the dissemination of artistic processes that are now free to be exported. Artists are moving from China to explore other cultures and likewise, western artists are visiting Jingdezhen for inspiration.

The result is a new hybrid of art, which is proving popular across the world. Cross-cultural influences are illustrated by artists such as Zhang Guojun, who makes porcelain panels and uses an abstract western style to communicate traditional Chinese academic themes.

a four panel painting of brown washes resembling mountains or waves
Zhu Di, Silence in Mountains, Jingdezhen Porcelain© Fitzgerald Fine Arts
Zhu Di is another artist who considers both cultures in his practice. By splitting his time between China and Italy, Zhu Di accesses both western and eastern sensibilities, which is showcased in his works of mountain landscapes that capture a stillness characteristic of earlier Chinese artwork.

Along with this zest for sharing their talent in ceramics, China is working to promote other cultural aspects internationally as well. There are plans for a new cultural and art zone centred around the Silk Road, which involves promoting the arts that thrive in the various cities along the Silk Road covering architecture, theatre, music, painting, sculpture and of course ceramics.

In building the world’s knowledge of their cultural activities, China will continue to expand their artistic offering and contribute significant value to the global art market.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

a photo of silvered porcelain plaque pierced by a single spike
Zhou Rong, Awn-1, Mixed Media© Fitzgerald Fine Arts

a photo of a painting of lotus flowers
Mansheng Wang, White Lotus I, Ink and Color on Porcelain© Fitzgerald Fine Arts

a photo of a large cylindrical vase with blue washes and small funnel mouth
Gan Daofu, Love of Clouds, Jingdezhen Porcelain© Fitzgerald Fine Arts

a painting consisting of 9 semi translucent streaks on a white background
Zhang Guojun, Beyond Mountains Series, 2013© Fitzgerald Fine Arts

More from Culture24's Ceramics and Craft section:

The power of pots: Jack Doherty on ceramics as fine art ahead of Ceramic Art London

Ten ceramicists you need to know about: Ceramic Art London 2015

Ten makers you need to know about: COLLECT 2015 International Art Fair

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