Centre of Ceramic Art, York Art Gallery, 7 December

Posted on Friday 18th December 2015

York Art Gallery reopened in August after a two-year £8 million redevelopment, and I was looking forward to seeing the transformation for the first time – I wasn’t disappointed. From the outside the gallery looks much the same but inside hidden spaces have been opened up to increase the display and exhibition area, resulting in spectacular, airy, light-filled spaces.

The expansion of the gallery has enabled York Museums Trust to establish the new Centre of Ceramic Art, and we were very fortunate to have Curator of Ceramics Helen Walsh as our guide. She is justly proud of the collection which is among the most important in the UK. It is formed mainly of large gifts from four significant private collectors – The Very Reverend Eric Milner-Wright, Bill Ismay, Henry Rothschild and Anthony Shaw – and covers the entire British studio ceramics movement.

The main gallery is flooded with natural ever-changing light and showcases some of the most important pieces in the collection, and introduces the potters who created them. The middle of the gallery is dominated by an installation by Clare Twomey – a tower of 10,000 hand-made bowls which is her tribute to collectors and makers. Next door the Anthony Shaw collection – on long-term loan – is displayed in a domestic context alongside furniture and objects from Shaw’s home and, in my opinion, succeeds spectacularly in giving visitors the experience of living with art.

Our afternoon concluded with refreshments at Grays Court – reputedly the oldest continuously occupied house in the country with parts dating back to 1080, and now a delightful boutique hotel nestled behind the Minster. A suitably festive setting for our final event of 2015. Can’t wait to find out what 2016 has in store!