Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction

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Media Release: January, 2011. 

Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction opens at City Gallery Wellington 29 January 2011

The notion of collecting Crown Lynn would have been surprising to many New Zealanders in the 1950s and ’60s. Crown Lynn’s familiar dinner sets were ubiquitous in homes across the country during the middle of the twentieth century. Today, however, some are treasured collector’s items, fetching high prices from a loyal fan-base.

A new exhibition at City Gallery Wellington, Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction (29 January—24 April 2011), brings together the largest collection of Crown Lynn objects seen in a public gallery and considers the place these hold in New Zealand’s collective aesthetic psyche.

This exhibition pulls together the distinctive collections of a number of Crown Lynn’s most dedicated and interesting collectors, including John Parker, Jeff Elston, Juliet Collins, Alison Reid, Billy Apple and Mary Morrison. Key to the exhibition is a selection of objects from the Portage Ceramics Trust, the organisation which cares for approximately 6000 Crown Lynn objects and ephemera, many of which were sourced from the company’s factory in New Lynn, Auckland after its closure in 1989.

In bringing together these private and public collections, this exhibition constructs a fascinating picture of the output of this ceramics factory and touches on both the iconic pieces familiar to many New Zealanders, as well the strange anomalies produced by Crown Lynn over its varied seventy year history.

Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction includes the work of an eclectic host of designers and ceramicists employed over the years by progressive Crown Lynn founder, Tom Clark (1916–2005). The exhibition features the bulbous-handled tea sets designed by Californian Dorothy Thorpe—beautiful but disastrously impractical—the glamorous hand-thrown white vases of Ernie Shufflebotham and the bold ‘Handwerk’ range of Dutch designer Frank Carpay.

Alongside the timeless elegance of these works, Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction also features the prosaic and well-known designs of this company, such as the jaunty Colourglaze tulip teacups of the 1950s and the retro-chic swan vases produced between the 1950s and 1970s.

This exhibition is co-curated by City Gallery Wellington curators Aaron Lister and Abby Cunnane and is the result of extensive research. Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction does not attempt to build a definitive history of this company, but rather teases out the contemporary relevance of Crown Lynn and showcases the idiosyncratic and personal tastes of those collectors attracted to its wide-ranging styles and forms.

Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction will be accompanied by a range of public programmes which will expand on the exhibition, as well as a modest publication authored by curators Aaron Lister and Abby Cunnane.

Crown Lynn: Crockery of Distinction

City Gallery Wellington

29 January–24 April 2011