Edmund de Waal: Early work: vessels from the Rosenheimer Collection

09 Jun – 05 Aug 2018

Edmund de Waal:


Twenty five years ago, working in my shared studio in South London, my assistant passed me the phone. She had tried to tell the person that I was working, and that my hands were covered in clay, but the caller had insisted that I talk to him. It was urgent - most urgent - essential - imperative - that I take the call. I can remember standing with wet clay all over the phone listening to this extraordinary voice insisting that we meet. He had been shown a pot by his daughter, Timna, was only in London for a day, needed to see what I had in stock. And so the very next day, in a café in Islington, I met Joram Rosenheimer for 'ten minutes': two and a half hours that became fifteen years - of wheeling conversation on contemporary art, on contemporary ceramics, on politics, on family. It was the template for these years of friendship - high octane, incisive, passionate talk about the two things that mattered most to him - and to me - art and family. And it soon became clear to me that Joram's sense of these two things was deeply intertwined: if he loved someone they became family: if he loved someone's art, someone's ceramics, they too had joined the family. Not in a precious way, not in a sentimental way, but as a part of a dynamic of real concern. This meant that it was imperative for him to see everything that was made, all parts of your work, to have every cupboard opened, every box unpacked: he wanted, needed, to be part of the complete creative life of his family of artists, ceramicists. He wanted more than the edited highlights of someone's work, wanted more than the tidied-up, contextualised and commodified, parts of what was happening. This was more than hyper-collecting, more than curiosity run amok: it was Joram's profound sense of connection with art. He knew that he wanted to see everything, because he knew that it was only by doing so that he could truly understand that artist's work. It also meant that he would tell you exactly what he thought. And not hedge his opinions and ideas. He expected this in return: it was very familial indeed.

Edmund de Waal, group of vessels, from the Rosenheimer Collection
Edmund de Waal, group of vessels, from the Rosenheimer Collection