CHORLEY’S AUCTIONS of Gloucester are the latest saleroom to take a five-figure sum for the work of the ceramicist Dame Lucie Rie (1902-1995).
On May 15, a stoneware footed bowl with yellow glaze and bronzed manganese ‘drip’ rim, impressed with Lucie Rie’s seal, sold to the London trade for £20,000.
The bowl measured just 7in in diameter, had faults, and had been with its owner since its purchase for £575 at a Stratford-upon-Avon exhibition in 1983.
Readers might be astonished at the sums paid for modern-day art potters – the type of work displayed in the upper corridor gallery at The McManus Galleries, a brave and farsighted inclusion by curators when the museum re-opened after refurbishment.
Vienna-born Rie was forced to flee Austria in 1938 and established a pottery in London. Her hand-thrown ware is austere, angular, elegant in shape and brightly coloured – just what 21st century interior designers love.
Now let me indicate how her fortunes have changed…
The auction record for her work stood at the £47,000 bid at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury in 2014 for a 10in flaring bowl in a vibrant blue and manganese glaze.
In 2015, £55,000 was bid at Phillips in London for an 8¼in diameter footed bowl of c1980.
In the summer of 2016 a new record was set when the same auction house took £85,000 for a 1976 conical form bowl with bands of golden manganese on its rim.
Then, in December 2016, the bar was set even higher when a bowl from c1978 sold for $170,000 (£133,900) at Phillips in New York.
It was the fourth time the auction record for Rie’s work had been broken in two years.
Lucie Rie bowl, £20,000 (Chorley’s).