Spring of 2019, I visited Collect, an art fair dedicated to modern craft and design held in London’s Saatchi Gallery. Stepping through the doors, I knew instantly that I had left the high street market of London behind and entered the world of elite craft masters. I paused to observe the grand stairwell installation, to be greeted by crowds of affluent looking individuals, and for a brief moment, to catch a glimpse of the sophisticated works ahead.
The exhibition began traditionally enough, with crafted bronze and silver from the likes of Todd Merrill Studio and Bishopsland Educational Trust. Each piece seemed to incorporate a mishmash of domesticity, intellectualism and traditional craftmanship within the framework of contemporary craft practice. On reflection, it’s interesting to notice the fundamental dichotomy within this assortment. Here, for example, is Markus Hasse’s Circlet Chandelier. A glance at the work reveals two things: the spectacle of a visually stimulating, conceptual work of art and the intricate use of a traditional material being pushed to its absolute aesthetic limit. I found that this combination frequently appeared in art works across the exhibit.
Further in I came across works by major international talents such as Tessa Eastman from Cynthia Corbett gallery and Myung Nam An from Cube Gallery. Both artists make idiosyncratic, interior objects that are both quietly beautiful and intellectually fascinating. The abstract forms and vibrant colour suggested a shared passion for pushing the boundaries of their chosen material. I was most impressed, though, with the fragility of the works. It seems hard to believe that these Baby Cloud Bundles survived the kiln process.
The range of work in terms of narrative ambition and conceptual scale was staggering. On the whole, however, it was the exceptional level of traditional craftsmanship that found me lost in utter appreciation. Enlightened and inspired I would highly recommend attending Collect events in the future.