One of the exhibitions showing at the Hepworth Wakefield is an installation by Matthew Darbyshire feauturing pottery selected from the collection of the late W A Ismay, an avid collector of ceramics who hailed from Wakefield. A librarian who lived in a terraced house, not far from where the Hepworth is located, acccumulated 3,600 items, by 500 potters from 1955 until his death in 20001. His collection, which includes significant works by major artists, is now owned by The Yorkshire Museum in York.
The installation is a “recreation” of the downstairs of Ismay’s house showing how he stored and “displayed” them. The artist has included some modern appliances as a contrast to the pots but other furnishings are from Ismay’s home. The display includes only 20% of the collection.
Helen Walsh, a leading scholar in the field of ceramics and Curator at York Art Gallery has devised a selection process for the ceramics included in the exhibition. This reflects Ismay’s own collecting methodologies with every potter in his collection being represented in this installtion (Ismay successfully collected myriad potters from A-Z with the exception of the troublesome X).
It was fascinating. Although not all the pieces were to my taste, there were some excellent examples of “studio” pottery and ceramics, mainly by British artists but also included pieces by potters from as far afield as Japan.
The exhibition included some short films where various potters and museum staff talk about him that were showing that were very interesting and offered some insights into this “potty” eccentric. Here’s a couple of them
The others can be viewed on Youtube here.