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Object Factory

Museum of Arts and Design Presents Major Exhibition Devoted to Contemporary Ceramic Design and Industrial Production

"Object Factory: The Art of Industrial Ceramics" Showcases Collaborations Between Artists, Designers, and Industry That Re-Imagine Ceramics for the 21st Century

On View at the Museum of Arts and Design from May 6 to August 23, 2009

New York, NY (December 16, 2008)

The Museum of Arts and Design presents Object Factory: The Art of Industrial Ceramics, a groundbreaking exhibition documenting contemporary innovation in industrial ceramic production and the renaissance of ceramics in art and design today.

On view from Wednesday, May 6 through Sunday, August 23, 2009, Object Factory illustrates how artists and designers in the 21st century are re-imagining the possibilities of this most traditional of mediums through collaborations with industry that enhance and sometimes subvert the industrial process. The exhibition also examines the unexpected uses of ceramics as kitchen appliances, knives, and even digital electronics, made possible by new technologies.

Guest-curated by internationally recognized artist and designer Marek Cecula, with the assistance of Dagmara Kopola, Object Factory features more than 200 objects from eighteen countries, including works by Swedish artist Kjell Rylander, American jeweler and designer Ted Muehling, Dutch designers Hella Jongerius and Jurgen Bey, and Russian American designer Constantin Boym among others. Manufacturers represented in the exhibition include Bernardaud, Nymphenburg, Rosenthal, and Royal Tichelaar Makkum.

Object Factory explores a material that has been central to the Museum’s mission since our inception and is a timely survey of contemporary ceramic production and design,” said Holly Hotchner, the Museum’s Nanette L. Laitman Director. “The exhibition examines the creative collaboration between artists, designers and industry today and showcases new trends, techniques and development in the field.”

Added Chief Curator David Revere McFadden, “By transforming the visual and cultural significance of ceramics, the designers and artists presented in Object Factory challenge our traditional expectations of the medium and underscore its virtually limitless potential.”

Ceramics have served historically as an arbiter of cultural and technological standards and as a catalyst for larger economic and cultural developments. The diverse objects on view in Object Factory provide evidence of a radical shift and expansion of ceramics in contemporary life. The exhibition provides a visual and intellectual framework for understanding how the medium has changed in the hands of contemporary artists and designers, ranging from the creation of utilitarian objects to manipulated designs that incorporate mixed materials.

Object Factory is composed of the following three interrelated sections:

  • Reinventing Tradition explores unique collaborations between long-established porcelain manufacturers such as Rosenthal and Nymphenburg and contemporary designers, artists, and ceramists including Konstantin Grcic, Ted Muehling, and Hella Jongerius. Among these are cooperative projects undertaken by the Rosenthal factory, where designer Patricia Urquiola has created the “Landscape” series of tableware with designs that combine porcelain’s translucency with irregular texture patterns that decorate the border of a plate or form the handle of a teapot, or at the Nymphenburg factory, where renowned American jewelry designer Ted Muehling has designed objects that are crafted by hand in the factory that include candlesticks in the form of tree branches, and organic bowls based on the shape of seashells.
  • Industrial Interference reveals the ways in which mass-produced objects are radically transformed through interventions by artists or designers during the production process, via cutting, breaking, deforming, decomposing and reassembling. One example is a special project by the French group 5.5. Designers who implement “creative disturbances” on the production line of Bernardaud’s porcelain production line by inviting the skilled artisans that craft the designs, and most often remain entirely anonymous, to become the creators of their own new designs. 
    Another example is one of the products of the Italian design group Industreal, designed by Ionna Vautrin and Guillaume Delvigne, a porcelain bowl with 1,800 perforations that are intended to be embroidered by the consumer; the bowl comes complete with an embroidery kit. 
  • High Tech Design examines advances in ceramic technology. This section highlights some of the newest high-fire materials, such as zirconium and corundum, which were developed initially for high-tech industry. These advanced materials are now being used in consumer products, changing popular expectations about how ceramics can be used. Works on view include extremely sharp ceramic scissors and knives, created by the Japanese technology company Kyocera and kitchen appliances—toasters and hot water kettles—designed by the Israeli design team of Elisha Tal, Eyal Cremer, and Danny Lavie.


“The ceramic industry, which long ago made ‘white gold’ available to the masses, is today capitalizing on the contemporary design phenomenon to create original and intelligent new products. As a result, new relationships between industrial producers and the worlds of art, design and craft are being formed,” stated exhibition curator Marek Cecula. “Object Factory illuminates how these creative minds explore and exploit the creative opportunities inherent in the most abundant materials on earth—clay”.

A press preview, conducted by the chief curator David McFadden and with guest curator Marek Cecula, will be held Tuesday, May 5, from 10 am to 12 pm. For press reservations, call 212.299.7713 or send an email to

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will organize artist demonstrations in its Open Studios; workshops; lectures and artist panels; readings; screenings; studio visits, and programs for children and families. Many programs will be made available on-line as well as on-site.

Guest curator Marek Cecula is a noted ceramic artist, designer and educator. He is the owner of Modus Design, a ceramics studio and shop with branches in New York and Kielce, Poland. Cecula’s work can be found in museum collections around the world including the Smithsonian National Museum of Art and the Museum of Arts and Design.

Object Factory is guest-curated by Marek Cecula with the assistance of Dagmara Kopola. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Arts and Design, based on the exhibition originally organized by the Gardiner Museum Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Object Factory is accompanied by a 100-page, fully illustrated catalogue published and distributed by the Museum of Arts and Design. The catalogue includes a foreword by Holly Hotchner, Nanette L. Laitman Director, Museum of Arts and Design; an introduction by David Revere McFadden, Chief Curator, Museum of Arts and Design; and guest essay by a noted ceramic historian. The catalogue is available through the Store at MAD.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how art, craft and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting-edge technologies.

The exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1945 to the present day.

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