Based on enthusiastic response to my guest column for Forbes – Full Stream Ahead: How the Arts Industry Is Coping in 2021 – I want to share nine exhibition stories. From the Malagueña car-n-couture extravaganza welcome to Manises in Valencia, Spain.
January 2020. I remember stories about “unknown pneumonia” outbreak contained in China. I wanted to re-watch Contagion; always liked the genre. Little did I know. One of my last pre-pandemic cultural outings in Valencia was to the town of Manises. Since the 1300’s it has been known for its ceramics. Now a UNESCO Heritage candidate, it continues to develop this ancient craft. Walking around is an open-air excursion as everywhere has ceramics integrated into façades, corners, the pavement. Beautiful atmosphere for a quiet day.
The municipal Museum of Ceramics does a good job of chronicling the rise of the ceramics manufacturing and trade as one of the common denominators for the changing tides of Islamic and Christian prominence in the region. Everyone needs quality homewares. All gods like a sturdy offerings plate. The community aspect of painting the ceramic products surprised me because I had imagined ceramic work as a solitary undertaking (except maybe with a ghost). The collection features impressive high-art vases and whatnot, but I was emotionally drawn more to the everyday items like decanters, oil bottles, dishes, the lot. Home is what we make of it.
The real reason I made it to Manises was to see the 14th Biennial of Ceramics. Having covered contemporary art biennales for Forbes – as well as here and here – I was intrigued by the medium’s possibilities. And whoa… did the clay deliver! I was particularly taken by the afterglow of Yolanda Ruiz Sanchez fixtures, the mysteries of communication by Pablo Bellot who projected sound into urns, the unsettling whimsy of an alien from Fernanda Cortes, the poignancy of a crumbling tea set titled “Breakfast in the Middle East” from Emre Can, the fetish of fitness by Maciej Kasperski and by Miguel Ortega Delgado’s glam-trash verdict “Game Over”. My favorite piece was Thing-In-Itself by Efrat Eyal: a stunning rendition of (un)natural blades.
While you are in town – and should you ever get to Valencia, do make it to Manises – you can visit with a real local ceramics artisan in his actual atelier to see the incredible craftsmanship up close. I enjoyed seeing Alejandro of Trencarts at his work!