Viola Frey - Design New York Tuesday, December 12, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1987

  • Exhibited

    "Viola Frey," Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York, May 1-June 3, 1987

  • Literature

    Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft, exh. cat., Arizona State University Arts Museum and Ceramic Research Center, Tempe, 2013, p. 57 for a similar example
    Cindi Strauss, Beyond Craft: Decorative Arts from the Leatrice S. and Melvin B. Eagle Collection, Houston, 2014, p. 77 for a related example

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips would like to thank the Artists’ Legacy Foundation for their assistance cataloguing the present lot.

    In the 1970s, several exhibitions across the United States shifted the spotlight to the work of female studio ceramists, among them Viola Frey. Frey trained as a painter under Richard Diebenkorn and Mark Rothko while simultaneously studying ceramics, and settled on clay as her primary medium by the 1970s. She had amassed a collection of flea market ceramic figurines and her study of them led to a body of work focused on large-scale figural representations of working class people, a nod to her upbringing on a California farm during the second World War. The present lot is among several works Frey titled “World Civilization.” The figures within these varying sculptures are painted with bold colorful brushstrokes on textured clay surfaces with frequently disproportionate features and often portraying grandmother-like women “holding the world” dressed in old-fashioned clothing, presenting a strong matriarchal image.

    Long considered an influential figure on the forefront of twentieth-century American ceramics, the work of Viola Frey is held in over seventy institutions internationally including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Shigaraki Ceramic Sculpture Park, Shiga, Japan.

The Modern Form: Property from the Collection of Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum


World Civilization #1

Glazed ceramic.
On base: 68 3/4 x 27 x 17 1/2 in. (174.6 x 68.6 x 44.5 cm)

$20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for $22,500

Contact Specialist
Cordelia Lembo
Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1265


New York Auction 12 December 2017