Bonhams Sale No. 10523: - International Contemporary Ceramics

18 May 2004

18 May 2004 6.00pm. 


International Contemporary Ceramics, including a group of Museum de-accessioned works by Ian Godfrey and selected items from the estate of Joanna Constantinidis.


A collection of three rare works produced by revolutionary ceramicist Hans Coper, after he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in the early 1970s will be sold in a sale of Contemporary Ceramics at International fine art Auctioneers, Bonhams in New Bond Street on Tuesday 18 May 2004. These works are some of the last pieces that Coper produced during his career.

Collectively known as the Cycladic Form, Coper worked in increasingly small scale as his hands and arms were too weak to produce the larger forms he was known for. Incredibly, he managed to condense all the remarkable detail of his larger work into tiny forms. Each work, technically known as a vessel, crosses the boundary into pure sculpture.

Cycladic Arrow Form is particularly rare as only four are known to exist. Estimated to fetch £30,000-40,000, the work, covered in a black manganese glaze, was produced in 1976. A rare white Cycladic Arrow form, produced in 1972 is estimated at £20,000-30,000 while the other, produced in 1975 is estimated at £12,000-18,000.

Hans Coper (1920-1980) became one of the first ceramicists who pioneered a combination of ways to use the wheel in a unique way to produce vessels that are symmetrical but not obviously thrown. This technique at the time was highly influential with other artists, many of whom ditched the wheel completely and began to 'hand build' using slabs of clay - a technique that most Modern artists work nowadays. Magnificent works by Coper spanning his entire career will also be represented including a sack form covered in white porcelain, produced in 1970 (£12,000-18,000) and a large globular pot produced in 1962 estimated at £8,000-12,000.

More than 50 spectacular lots by Dame Lucie Rie (1902-1995), whose standard of excellence along with Coper’s moved ceramics from the realm of craft to fine art are also included in the sale. Of particular interest is a very rare bowl, one of the few pots that Rie carried with her in a suitcase when she fled Vienna for England in 1938. Produced in the early 1930’s, the bowl is made from burnished earthenware. Very few of these pots exist which document the Modernist tradition that Rie learnt in pre-war Austria and brought to England. Later Rie developed into her own instantly recognisable style, which is represented in a rare large oval bowl, produced in porcelain in 1959 and a large pink footed bowl estimated at £8,000-12,000. A large stoneware vase produced with a thick matt white glaze (£12,000-18,000) and a very large mallet shaped vase with a flaring rim (£9,000-14,000) will also be sold.

Joanna Constantinidis (1927-2000) was a follower of Coper who also 'threw and altered' her pots. Her work has such a metallic quality to them that it is hard to imagine how these forms are ceramic and produced on a wheel. Constantindis maintained that 'throwing is central to my work.’ Representing Constantinidis work is a tall vase produced in stoneware in1990, three porcelain Poppy head pots and three leaning forms all estimated at £1,200-1,800.

Ceramicists such as Bernard Leach (1887-1979) would have insisted that a utilitarian bowl for example could and should be both functional and a work of art. Representing his work is a large slipware dish produced in earthenware in a yellow and dark brown glaze (£1,200-2,200), a pot stand mounted in a hammered copper frame (£300-400) and a stoneware tile titled The Onion Seller in traditional Breton costume (£700-900).

Gordon Baldwin (b.1932) retained the concept and discipline of producing a 'vessel' in his work whilst dismissing the need for functionality. Lots in the sale include a bowl produced in 1977 titled circle on a square £700-900) and a tall black earthenware standing form, produced in 1985, estimated at £3,000-4,000.

By the legendary Japanese artist Suzuki Osamu (1926-2002) is a work titled House of Ware and Seaside in Winter both produced in 1988 and estimated at £4,000-6,000. Suzuki Osamu was a friend and colleague of the Sculptor and Designer Isamu Noguchi and together they formed the 'Sodeisha' - a group of avant-garde artists who worked in an entirely different way to their predecessors creating new abstracted sculptural forms rather than food and tea related wares.

Vietnamese born artist, Rosa Nguyen (b.1960) is represented by a sculpture of an elephants head, estimated at £800-1,200. Produced in 1900 in earthenware, the untitled work is covered with a pale blue and grey glaze. Nguyen is renowned for producing magnificent animated portraits of animals that are portrayed as quite edgy and awkward looking and full of character.

A portrait titled The Wee-Fella by ceramicist, Jill Crowley (b.1946) also features. Produced in 1980, the painted work is estimated at £1,400-1,800. Crowley creates objects personal to her experience including portraits of her cats, models of her baby's hand and even a discarded Fish head.

Representing the pop art of ceramics, is a shiny white vase with yellow bunches mounted as handles (£1,800-2,500) by Richard Slee (b.1946). Winner of the 2001 Jerwood Prize, Slee’s works are full of humour.

Grayson Perry (b.1960), Turner Prize winner of 2003, brings 'subversive messages' into the home using 'soft mediums' such as ceramics or even embroidery. Designed to shock, a vase titled Love Pouff is decorated with a variety of figures in sexual acts. Produced in 1983, the work is estimated at £3,000-4,000.

Date: 18 May 2004
Time & Place: The auction takes place at 101 New Bond Street, London W1S 1SR. Time of Auction: 6.00pm.

Tel: Ben Williams at 0207-468-8328 or Jenny Harris on 0207-468-8269


Catalogue: 01666-502-200, email:

Bonhams website: CLICK HERE This goes straight to the Ceramics Department

Auction starts: 6.00pm.
Viewing times:
14 May 9.00am - 4.30pm., 16 May 11.00 - 3.00pm., 17 May 9.00 - 4.30pm., 18 May 9.00am - 2.00pm. .

Note: All information shown about this Auction is copyright to Bonhams 1793 Limited and is indicative only. For confirmation and definitive detail contact Bonhams direct or through the links above.


Work in the Auction

1. Lot: 152A. Hans Coper, a very rare 'cycladic arrow' form, 1976. t-material, tapering cylindrical base, the whole is covered in a black manganese glaze, cylindrical at the base, rising to an oval neck and rim. Impressed HC seal. Height 10 3/4 inches (27.3cm) Estimate £30,000 - £40,000.

2. Lot: 119. Dame Lucie Rie, A large footed bowl with radiating pink inlay, circa 1980. porcelain, the foot and rim golden bronze, a band of turquoise inside and out, the indented well with an inlaid grid design, impressed LR seal. Diameter 9 inches (23cm) Estimate £6000 - £12000.

3. Lot: 246. Richard Slee - a Vase, 'Bunches', 2002. earthenware, shiny white glaze with vivid yellow bunches mounted as handles, signed Height 17 1/2 inches (44cm.) Estimate £1800 - £2500.