Axel Salto - Design New York Wednesday, December 7, 2022 | Phillips
  • Though originally trained as a fine artist, Axel Salto began working with clay at an early stage in his artistic career. Beginning in the 1920s, Salto created functional stoneware pieces for Bing & Grøndahl porcelain manufactory; he went on to win a silver medal at the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes on the firm’s behalf. The artist is best known, though, for the stoneware pieces that he created for the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory beginning in 1934 until his death in 1961. Over nearly three decades, Salto created a range of works in a variety of styles and forms which, broadly, can be divided into three primary categories: fluted, budding, and sprouting. Each of these styles point to the artist’s interest in movement and stages of growth as expressed through form, color, and decoration.

    “The vase is like a living organism; the body buds, the buds develop, and a sprouting—even prickly—vessel results from the urgency of life within.”
    —Axel Salto

    Transformations—and especially those that occur in nature—were central preoccupations in Salto’s œuvre. Initially he modeled his works after specific biological specimens. His works in the fluted style and budding styles is largely based on real life observations of nature, such as chestnuts and eucalyptus. In these works, glaze beautifully runs around curved forms and raised knobs. His sprouting works, however, do not explicitly reference visual motifs found in the natural world; his sprouting works express, rather than depict, the act of growth and movement. Describing this transition, Salto said, “I went beyond the knobbed form to discover the sprouting, or growth, style. This style also passed through a development that carried my work into demonic pieces of extreme shapes—pieces in which are deposited my feelings both of happiness at being in accord with the creative spirit of Spring and of dread before the intense rage of Nature.”


    Left: Cover of the exhibition catalogue from Axel Salto’s 1956 one-man show at the Maison du Danemark, Paris, which illustrates the present model sculpture.
    Right: Axel Salto and a larger version of the present model sculpture.
    © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISDA.

    The present work, whose full name is Den Tingene Iboende Kraft or Kraftens Kerne (which translates to “The Inherent Vigor of Things” or “The Core of Power”), visually straddles the budding and sprouting styles. The base is composed of dozens of knobs over which brown and blue glazes beautifully drip. Above this, three spikes shoot into space, commanding attention. The work is impressive in size, standing at twenty-one inches (53.3 cm) high. The work is a perfect example of the ways in which Salto used clay to expressively depict the growth and energetic forces that occur in the natural world.  

    “Axel Salto is a man of dreams, having realized his dreams through the art of ceramics.”
    —Pierre Lübecker, in the introduction to "Salto" (1952)

    The present work is an exceptional example of Salto’s mastery of stoneware as well as his inimitable artistic approach to design. The work is not only breathtaking for its masterful manipulation of the medium but also for the complex interpretation of the natural world.

    • Provenance

      Antik, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1998

    • Literature

      Det Braendende Nu - Axel Salto, exh. cat., Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen, 1989, p. 79
      Axel Salto: Forces of Nature, Ceramics and Drawings, New York, 1999, p. 7

Property of a Private Collector


“The Core of Power” (“Kraftens Kerne”) sculpture

designed circa 1956, produced 1969-1974
Stoneware with Sung glazes.
21 in. (53.3 cm) high
Produced by Royal Copenhagen, Denmark. Underside stamped ROYAL/COPENHAGEN/DENMARK, incised SALTO and painted 21375 and blue wave mark.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $63,000

Contact Specialist

Benjamin Green
Associate Specialist

Associate Head of Sale
+1 917 207 9090



New York Auction 7 December 2022