Dame Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Magdalene Odundo and Grayson Perry sought after

Date: 13 Apr 2016

Bumblebee Design

Robin Stewart, Sotheby’s expert in British Studio ceramics, says that while Rie and Coper appeal to more traditional collectors within the studio ceramics field, Odundo and Perry attract contemporary collectors.


Is ceramic work more popular with private collectors or public institutions?

At auctions, the majority of buyers for contemporary British ceramics tend to be private collectors. However we do see institutions participating, with an early Grayson Perry vase, named ‘But What Am I Supposed To Wear To The Surface Decoration Ball!’, bought by the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch for their collection. There are some interesting public collections of contemporary ceramics here in the UK and abroad, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the recently re-opened Centre of Ceramic Art in York.


What work are ultra-high net worth clients interested in? 

It is driven by personal taste or the kind of collection for which they are buying. But in the contemporary ceramics field the market is very strong for internationally recognised names, and the four biggest would currently be Dame Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Magdalene Odundo and Grayson Perry. Rie and Coper appeal to more traditional collectors within the studio ceramics field, and have a very strong international following, whereas Odundo and Perry can appeal more to contemporary collectors. We sold a work by Odundo in a Paris sale last year for a record-breaking €195,000.


Is the UK ceramics market different to the international one?

The top-end contemporary ceramics market is fairly consistent between the US and the UK, and you will often see works by Rie and Coper appearing in sales in both locations. The internet makes it very easy to keep track of works by these artists appearing across the globe, and we have a number of buyers from outside the UK and the States that participate in our sales.


Who are the buyers?

In the market for contemporary and studio ceramics there are collectors from all across the globe, but the market for British studio ceramics is particularly strong in the UK, USA and the Far East, with further collectors as far afield as Australia and South America. There is a market for British studio ceramics in Europe, but these tend to be restricted to the better known and more recognised names such as Rie, Coper, Perry and Odundo.


Do artists use social media to sell their work?

Contemporary potters do, increasingly, make use of online promotions such as Instagram, and there is an important online presence for British studio ceramics, but galleries tend to be the primary selling vehicle for young, contemporary studio ceramicists.


What is the highest price you’ve seen a piece of ceramic sold for? 

Last month, a stunning Emerald Green Lucie Rie bowl dating from 1987 sold for £40,000 including premium. In September last year we sold a Hans Coper ‘Spade’ vase for £36,250 against a pre-auction estimate of £18,000 – 25,000.


Is functional ceramic more popular than decorative?

In the context of British studio ceramic, no, as most pieces are bought for decorative purposes. However, Lucie Rie made a series of functional ware, which is a delight to eat and drink from.


What trends do you see? 

Within the British studio ceramics field we have seen some lesser-recognised potters like Gabriele Koch, John Ward and Emmanuel Cooper gaining popularity. I think that the internationally recognised names of Rie, Coper, Odundo, Perry an others will always do well, both here in the UK and further afield.