Laurence Crespin and Frédéric Bodet
© photo Thomas Deschamps
C14 was created in 2003. Has its artistic direction changed since then?
Laurence Crespin. Since becoming president of the association in 2018, we’ve broken with the event’s original intent by asserting a new identity and taking a path even more radically towards contemporary creation. We’d very clearly like to play a key role in the recognition of ceramic artists by institutions, dealers and contemporary art collectors.
Frédéric Bodet. We’re mainly interested in ceramics that explore forms in space. We’ve got nothing against using traditional techniques and mixing materials, as long as the result is representative of contemporary sculpture. Each artist selects his or her best work, which must never have been shown before.
Unlike a purely commercial show, does your commitment involve the status of ceramics and its level of standards?
L.C. Yes, especially since ceramics hasn’t received the recognition it deserves in France. It’s still hard to exhibit at the FIAC, Art Paris or galleries. We’ve changed the show’s partners to avoid the artisanal label, which can be very restrictive.
F.B. We keep an open mind. All that matters is expressing a spirit of modernity, not rehashing outmoded or outdated forms, bringing the ceramic material itself up to date, being surprised by ways in which the glaze is worked.
Ceramics has become noticeably more popular in the past 10 years or so. How do you explain that?
F. B. I’m convinced that interest in ceramics has always existed, and that if it’s growing today that’s because artists have wanted it to. Many of them became interested in this medium outside their art schools’ curriculum, where ceramics studios have mostly disappeared. The encounter with clay is decisive and exciting because it touches on highly contemporary issues more than any other material, the idea of fragility, fluidity, roots, etc. We’ve noticed that today’s young artists want to take their know-how into their hands and to make things using materials that last. They train, at the same time as attending art school or after graduating, to become familiar with this material, which is challenging to work with, but once they’ve started they can’t stop.
L. C. Institutions have also played a key role in this recognition, especially with the big shows Frédéric organized as a curator at the modern and contemporary department of the musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris from 1999 to 2012 and at the modern and contemporary collections of the Musée national de Céramique in Sèvres (Sèvres-Cité de la Céramique) from 2013 to 2018.
Is France behind in regard to the recognition of ceramics?
F. B. There are more dedicated galleries abroad than in France, where preconceived ideas about the material’s supposed fragility persist. Collectors have seen worse with contemporary art installations made of perishable materials!
Are there any people who only collect ceramics?
F. B. Yes! There are more and more of them. It’s interesting to note that new collectors come to ceramics from design. In France, ceramics galleries are antique dealers specializing in the 20th century, like Jousse Entreprise, the Lefebvre & Fils gallery, Jean-Marc Lelouch and Carpenters Workshop. People with a passion for furniture and design are also the ones who are the most interested in these creations. They usually start out by buying pieces from the 1950s before opening up to contemporary creation. Kristin McKirdy, for example, built her career with the Jousse gallery. Young artists have understood that the borders between art, design and decorative arts are fluid. Our show promotes this openness.