An hour ago, I was at York Art Gallery volunteering on the Anthony Shaw space, as part of the new Centre of Ceramic Arts (CoCA), for the first time. Here are my very first impressions. More to follow on some of the artworks presented in this space.
The project immediately interested me, the aim is to help visitors interacting with the space created by Anthony Shaw at the heart of CoCA. Anthony Shaw is an art collector, mainly ceramics, who lives in London and used to open his home to visitors, so they could enjoy artworks in a domestic setting. The decor is close to Shaw's own house with pink walls, a fireplace and some of his own furniture and books. As explain by York Museums Trust:
"Shaw places his objects on furniture, between books on shelves, in front of paintings and he invites visitors in to share the experience of living with a collection".
What I really like is the "no-label" policy. Visitors, if they want to know the name of the artwork or the artist, have to look into books and none of the artworks have labels and people can enjoy the beauty of the piece without having to "rationalise" it by knowing the artist or the title. In several community groups I attended, people often mention how "scared" they are of labels, and how liberating it is to see them go away. This "liberation" is the key to the success of the Anthony Shaw space, people can feel what it is like to live with artworks. Anthony Shaw says in the video streaming in the room that he doesn't want to create collectors but he wants visitors to get interested in one of the pieces, by its colours or shape, and to look at it, to stare at it, to feel it. Being intrigued is the key to understand the dynamic of the space, at least that's what I think, without label the visitor is left alone with its knowledge and feelings. He/she can read the artworks with his/her own life experience and be intrigued. The beauty of art is to challenge you and that is what CoCA is doing, challenging us with ceramics.
For my first session, I was nervous of not knowing enough about the artworks but actually it helped me to start conversations with visitors, we were all on the same boat, no one better than the other. I met a few collectors, a lady mentioned her love for the colour blue and anything floral, whereas the other was a ceramic specialist.
An interesting article written by another volunteer on the project: