For nearly half a century, the historian and art critic Frank Nievergelt has assembled with passion and discernment an impressive collection of over nine hundred ceramics by internationally renowned contemporary artists, which includes vessels, sculptures, showcase pieces as well as monumental works. Subsequent to the exhibition devoted to the Nievergelt collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Lausanne in 1978, the Ariana Museum will be opening up its spaces to exhibit selected items from one of Switzerland's leading private collections in the field.
For this occasion, Frank Nievergelt is very generously donating an important collection of nearly two hundred pieces to our institution.
Like any other, the Nievergelt collection has its own personality, its special "colour" that mirrors its owner’s sensitivity and subjectivity; and it’s also a long-term project. What’s remarkable is that Nievergelt has made a point of meeting almost all the ceramists whose pieces he has acquired, going to see them at work in their studio and visiting them as often as possible in the course of journeys that have taken him all over Europe. Many of these artists have become good friends, helping the collector to hone his sensitivity and vision, while he, for his part, has supported their careers through regular purchases. This is how the Nievergelt collection has gained in stature. Today, it’s a brilliant and pertinent illustration of artists’ ceramics from the last three decades of the twentieth century. As such, it’s one of the largest ensembles of its kind in Switzerland and Europe.
The collection reflects the diversity of the ceramics scene during this period, whether in the traditional form of the vessel, or in that of figurative or abstract sculpture or installations. Miniatures are also included (Swindell’s astonishing vessels of less than one centimetre), as well as monumental pieces (such as the Pedra del si by Casanovas). Rather than the diversity of the materials (though the high fire clays, stoneware and porcelain, predominate, earthenware is also represented), it’s the variety of expression and artistic worlds that is most striking. Indeed, there’s no snobbery in Frank Nievergelt’s choices; he rates vases by big names like Lucie Rie and Hans Coper as highly as the naive freshness of Jakob Stucki’s pieces, the kitsch bordering on vulgarity of Stephan Hasslinger’s work and the formal purity of Thomas Bohle’s ceramics. These extremes can all meet, contrast or harmonize with each other, so long as they emanate from a strong personality and inspire emotion. This total freedom in the collector’s choices is never calculated or based on economic concerns; it springs from an aesthete as astute as he is passionate.
41 artists exhibited
Ruth Amstutz - Gordon Baldwin - Philippe Barde - Thomas Bohle - Claudi Casanovas - Édouard Chapallaz - Hans Coper - Gundi Dietz - Carmen Dionyse - Ruth Duckworth - Sonja Duò-Meyer - Veronika Ellwanger-Brammann - Volker Ellwanger - Michael Flynn - Ian Godfrey - Stephan Hasslinger - Steven Heinemann - Ewen Henderson - Élisabeth Joulia - Beate Kuhn - Philippe Lambercy - Uwe Löllman - Guido Mariani - Eric James Mellon - Enric Mestre - Colin Pearson - Gustavo Pérez - Pompeo Pianezzola - Lucie Rie - Karl Scheid - Ursula Scheid - Margarete Schott - Imre Schrammel - Jakob Stucki - Geoffrey Swindell - Nanni Valentini - José Vermeersch - Gerald Weigel - Gotlind Weigel - Betty Woodman - Carlo Zauli.