The Newark Museum has commissioned a site-specific, three-part installation by ceramic artist Molly Hatch that calls attention to the iconic architecture in its Charles W. Engelhard Court. The installation was inspired by global textiles in the Museum’s collection and its unveiling will coincide with the Annual Luncheon on Oct. 24. Titled Repertoire, it will open to the public on Oct. 25.
Hatch is known for her murals using hundreds of underglaze-painted ceramic plates, including two major installations at the High Museum in Atlanta. Repertoire is her largest commission to date, honoring the Museum’s 107-year-tradition of collecting contemporary ceramic art, and commemorating the retirement of Curator of Decorative Arts Ulysses Dietz after 37 years.
“Two years ago I approached Molly Hatch about doing a project for the Newark Museum,” Dietz said. “Molly, the daughter of a painter and a dairy farmer, bridges contemporary design, ceramics and painting in a way that resonates perfectly with the Newark Museum.”
The Museum has been displaying ceramics as art since 1910, and Dietz thought it was fitting to cap his career with a major installation by a rising young American artist. Hatch’s installation also celebrates another major cornerstone of the Museum’s collection: textiles. The niches in the Engelhard Court each hold a different artwork inspired by a textile from the Museum’s three geographical collecting areas: Africa, America and Asia.
Africa is represented by Dyula Woven, inspired by a rare Dyula wrapper from the Ivory Coast. Made in the early 20th century, it was collected by the Museum’s founding director John Cotton Dana in 1928. For the American niche, Hatch chose a blue-and-white coverlet of wool and cotton from the 1840s. Titled Bergen Jacquard, it honors the important New Jersey component of the Museum’s decorative arts collection. The third niche, Qianlong Silk, is based on an 18th-century Chinese velvet throne carpet, with stylized peonies and a dancing crane.
Each of the three niches present an image pixilated in slip decoration across approximately 186 factory-made white earthenware plates, totaling over 500 plates in all. The design of each of the textiles is broken up and transformed as the plates’ concave, shiny surfaces reflect light back into the court.
“Repertoire evokes the pervasive presence of art in everyday life through ceramics and textiles across human history and civilization,” Dietz said.
Mitchell Owens, the Decorative Arts Editor at Architectural Digest, will be the guest speaker at the luncheon and his talk will focus on art and interior design. The luncheon also features a champagne reception, pop up designer trunk shows and raffles.