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Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at MEISSEN©

February 26 ­ May 29, 2016

 

In 2011, Oregon-based sculptor Chris Antemann was invited to participate in the Art Studio program of the legendary MEISSEN Porcelain Manufactory. During the program she collaborated with the MEISSEN master artisans on unique pieces and a series of limited editions of her sculptures, resulting in a grand installation that reinvents and invigorates the great porcelain figurative tradition.

Using the Garden of Eden as her metaphor, the artist created a contemporary celebration of the 18th-century banqueting craze. Inspired by MEISSEN's great historical model of Johann Joachim Kändler's monumental Love Temple (1750), Antemann created her own 5-foot work. Stripping the original design back to its basic forms, she added her own figures, ornamentation, and flowers, as well as a special finial with three musicians to herald the guests to the banquet below.

Employing her signature wit and formal references to classic Baroque MEISSEN figurines, Antemann has invented a new narrative on contemporary morality through her one-of-a-kind porcelain figures in a setting that evokes the decadence of Boucher and Watteau.

Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at MEISSEN© is organized by Chris Antemann in collaboration with MEISSEN©. The local presentation of this exhibition is curated by Stefano Catalani. Exhibition mirrors generously provided by Timeless Elegance, Estate Furniture & Fine Antiques.

To view ten images of artworks in the exhibit from the website of the Bellevue Arts Museum, please click here.

 

Text panels from the exhibit

Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at MEISSEN

 
Over the past decade, Oregon-based sculptor Chris Antemann's playfully erotic porcelain figurines have investigated universal themes of love, relationships, and "the struggle for dominance within the domestic experience". Inspired by a rich Baroque and Rococo tradition, Antemann's finely sculpted figurines uphold an 18th-century stylistic sensibility, while offering a freshly contemporary twist on social etiquette.
 
With Forbidden Fruit, Chris Antemann returns to Bellevue Arts Museum after her successful participation in Clay Throwdown!, the first edition of the BAM Biennial, in 2010. In 2011, Antemann was invited to participate in the Art Studio program of the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory in Germany to collaborate with the Meissen master artisans on unique pieces and a series of limited editions of her sculptures. The collaboration resulted in a grand installation that reinvents and invigorates the great porcelain figurative tradition.
 
Using the Garden of Eden as metaphor, the artist created a contemporary celebration of the 18th-century banqueting craze. Inspired by Meissen's historical model of Johann Joachim Kändler's monumental Love Temple (1750), Antemann created her own 5-foot version. Stripping the original design back to its basic forms, she added her own figures, ornamentation, and flowers, as well as a special finial with three musicians to herald the guests to the banquet below. Employing her signature wit and formal references to classic Baroque Meissen figurines, Antemann has shaped a new narrative on contemporary morality through her one-of-a-kind porcelain figures laid on the table to reveal relationship rituals, games and tales in a setting that evokes the decadence of Boucher and Watteau.
 
Antemann's Love Temple is the centerpiece and heart of the installation. It was designed to house a host of semi-clothed revelers around a banquet of "forbidden fruit." The artist then expanded the breadth of the installation to include a pleasure garden made up of eight separate pieces that surrounds the temple, creating an elaborate tableau in the great tradition of royal 18th-century sur la table.
 
Accompanying the lavish and overflowing banquet table is a massive 9-light porcelain chandelier and a collection of smaller sculptures to accompany the table along the gallery walls, evoking the tradition of palatial porcelain rooms. The small, intimate vignettes entertain with playful scenes of dalliance and seduction.
 
The tales of trysts and treasures, the tug-of-war of master and servant and the pairing of the floral-clad maid with the dominance of patriarchal desire of yore inspire Antemann to create stories in porcelain. However, unlike the historical antecedents, Antemann's tea parties, secret rendezvous, and opulent banquets, confound rules, play with roles, and reflect the emancipation of sensual and sexual courtship of our own age.

 

MEISSEN Panel

Meissen china is the first porcelain to be manufactured in Europe. It was developed at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus and Johann Friedrich Böttger under the patronage of Elector of Saxony and the King of Poland, August the Strong. The production of porcelain at Meissen, near what is now Dresden, Germany, started officially in 1710. The Chinese had mastered the production of porcelain long before the west became aware of it, and by the seventeenth century, oriental porcelain had become a valuable export commodity. Chinese porcelain featured unique, never-before-seen qualities such as a smooth hard paste, a distinct transparency to light, a clear sound when struck, and pure white surfaces -- on which glazes adhere firmly and colors are dramatically brightened. Mostly provided by the Dutch East India Company, porcelain from China was in high demand and came to represent wealth, importance, and refined taste in Europe. Princes and wealthy merchants vied with each other to acquire it and porcelain rooms began to appear in their palaces. Attempts to determine the recipe had met with failure in 16th century Tuscany, and later, in 17th century France, Holland, and England.
 
In 1708, the discovery was made in Saxony -- which is now present day Germany -- by von Tschirnhaus, a mathematician and scientist, who had experimented with the manufacture of glass, and Böttger, an alchemist unsuccessful in his effort to produce gold from worthless materials. It was an event of incalculable importance. Following the discovery, the King established the Royal Saxon Pottery Works, founding one of the most famous porcelain industries that continued through invasions, wars, revolutions, and economic downturns, and is still in business today as Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH. From the beginning, the formula of the 'Saxon' china was known only to a few initiates and held in secrecy against attempts by spies and agents of other European courts to gain access to the arcanum of porcelain. The famed crossed swords logo was introduced in 1720 to protect the Meissen production. The mark is one of the oldest trademarks in existence.
 
Initially, shape and ornamentation often imitated forms and painting patterns of oriental vessels. As the Meissen porcelain market expanded and the factory entered its golden years, the Chinese influence was soon matched by the then en vogue baroque and rococo motifs. Minutely detailed landscapes and port scenes, animals, flowers, courtly scenes, and chinoiseries -- fanciful Chinese-inspired decorations -- mark the classic phase of Meissen porcelain. One of the most famous sculptors, and the architect of Meissen's rise to fame, is Johann Joachim Kaendler. In 1733, under his direction, Meissen began producing a series of small figurines, often depicting scenes of gallantry, which remain to this day the paradigm of Meissen porcelain. His menagerie of large-scale animals, left in the white, are some of the high points of European porcelain manufacture. His work resulted in the production of exquisite figurines in the rococo style that influenced porcelain making in all of Europe.
 
The rarity and expense of Meissen porcelain meant that originally it could only be bought by the upper classes. Meissen took orders from the elites of Russia, France, England, and other European countries. Wealthy Europeans accumulated vast collections and when a wealthy class emerged in the United States, people like the Vanderbilts started their own collections. Many of these collections then found their way into the world's great museums.
 


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