From Copenhagen to New York: Bend, Bubble and Shine

A new contemporary clay exhibition at the art gallery Hostler Burrows challenge in both techniques as well as shape, form and language.

Photo: Joe Kramm

mong the neat rows of characteristic brick houses and quiet tree-lined streets in New York’s East Village lies a gallery dedicated to historical Nordic design and studio arts. Founded in 1998 by Kim Hostler and Juliet Burrows, the Hostler Burrows gallery has evolved its program to integrate a full roster of contemporary artists, both established and emerging. While international in scope, the gallery’s primary focus remains on Scandinavia and rooted in the tradition of studio ceramics.

Their recently opened exhibition Bend, Bubble and Shine: Copenhagen Ceramics celebrates the work of nine Danish studio ceramic artists working at the forefront of their discipline, exploring technique and process with original, surprising and intriguing results.

Denmark in New York reached out to gallery founder Juliet Burrows to get her take on the story of Hostler Burrows, the passion about contemporary Danish ceramics, and what we can expect from another upcoming Danish exhibition this fall.

Kim Hostler (left) and Juliet Burrows (right). Courtesy: Hostler Burrows

Denmark in New York: What is the story of Hostler Burrows and your galleries in New York and Los Angeles?

Juliet Burrows (JB): We opened our first gallery in 1998 in TribeCa; the gallery was initially devoted solely to vintage design and studio arts from Scandinavia. This was before Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl were household names and the market was still discovering the wealth of design that emerged from the Nordic countries in the beginning and mid-20th Century.

We were focused on championing the work of the studio ceramic artists such as Axel Salto, Berndt Friberg, and others. We mounted the first solo exhibition of the work of Axel Salto in 1999, garnering a full page review in the New York Times and fueling an interest in the market which has grown steadily over the years.

About ten years ago we began looking at some contemporary ceramic artists, and our program has since evolved to include an international roster of ceramic, glass, and textile artists — always rooted in the aesthetics of the Nordic sensibility and the approach the artists share in terms of materiality, intention, and handmade work.

We find it interesting to show the contemporary work in dialogue with the historical, in this way presenting a narrative that illustrates the connections and gives fresh perspective and context for the works.

Artist: Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. Photo: Joe Kramm

Your current show Bend, Bubble and Shine is a collaboration with Copenhagen Ceramics. How did this show come about?

JB: We were approached last year just before Covid-19 hit by Martin Boldilsen Kaldahl, Bente Skjøttgaard, and Steen Ipsen — the three founders of Copenhagen Ceramics. They visited in the gallery and we agreed that we could work together to make the exhibition. I was in Copenhagen March 10th of 2020 for a three week tour of the artists’ studios in Denmark (as well as Finland and Sweden) when things were abruptly shut down and I was forced to come home after only one day. Nevertheless we managed to organize everything over Zoom and made the decision to move forward with the exhibition this spring. It has been an extremely rewarding and enriching collaboration, and one that sustained my creative spirit throughout the lockdown.

What is your passion about the contemporary Danish ceramics scene and the aesthetics of traditional Danish craftsmanship?

JB: There is a unique vibrancy and energy to the works of all the ceramic artists we have been working with. I will quote directly from our press release below, and can also add that from a personal perspective I find the energy and warmth of the Danish artists extremely compelling. Their sense of community and engagement with one another — supporting, mentoring, and also pushing each other — are remarkable.

Denmark has such a legacy of craftsmanship, from the Cabinetmaker tradition to the studio ceramics. It is so inspiring to see this tradition carried on in the contemporary field, with the reverence for nature and natural materials, and the commitment to the handmade. There is nothing more inspiring than experiencing the work of someone who has devoted themselves to their practice; the passion emanates from the works themselves and is therefore felt by the viewer.

Artist: Bente Skjøttgaard. Photo: Joe Kramm

“The tradition of clay is deeply embedded in the history and culture of Denmark, and the nine adventurous artists represented in this exhibition demonstrate an evolution of the medium and the limitless visual possibilities that may abound. Through rigorous investigation within their studio practices — of form, structure, proportion, glaze, and the trial and error of the kiln — a myriad of aesthetics, ranging from subtle to grandiose, beguile and challenge us, whether it be for conventional ideals of beauty, function, or taste.

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming Danish exhibition in the fall and what it will focus on?

JB: The fall exhibition continues our focus on Danish design, this time with a Lens of Stine Bidstrup on materiality across many media; the roster includes glass artists, textile, wood, ceramics, and metal, and will serve to introduce an exciting group of already established artists and designers to a new audience. The artists are:

Astrid Krogh, Jakob Jørgensen, Pernille Pontoppidan Pedersen, Maria Sparre — Petersen, Hanne Grønlund, Yuki Ferdinandsen, Anne Brandhøj, Bjørn Friborg, Stine Bidstrup, and Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl. There will be an accompanying catalogue designed by Laura Silke, with essays by Danish curator / writer Henriette Nørmark and Glenn Adamson.

Courtesy: Hostler Burrows

Explore the deeply embedded Danish tradition of clay at the new exhibition Bend, Bubble and Shine: Copenhagen Ceramics through June 10, 2021.

Katrine Nørholm Jensen is the Strategic Communications and Press intern at Denmark In New York.

Sofie Dalhoff Saabye is the Culture and Public Diplomacy intern at Denmark In New York

The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.