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The Most Important Collection of Contemporary Ceramics to Ever Come to Auction

10 November 2021

Phillips X Maak announce


The Art of Fire: Selections from the Collection of Dr. John P Driscoll 

10 November 2021 | Phillips, Berkeley Square, London


Phillips and Maak have come together to present an important selection of works from the seminal collection of International Studio Ceramics of the late Dr. John P Driscoll, New York. The Art of Fire - Selections from the Collection of Dr. John P Driscoll will celebrate Driscoll's cultural legacy and offer some 160 highlight lots from his significant collection.

Exceptional examples of ceramic art by the masters of British Studio Ceramics Bernard Leach, Hamada Shoji, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, James Tower Elizabeth Fritsch, Gordon Baldwin, Ewen Henderson and Edmund de Waal, alongside outstanding examples of Japanese and Danish ceramics, have been carefully selected to reflect the unique eye of an extraordinary collector and passionate patron. 

"These are the 'famous' pots, the ones that appeared in the books and exhibitions that helped launch a movement. John Driscoll was never in any doubt that ceramics could provide a vehicle for artistic expression equal to painting and sculpture, worthy of the same level of appreciation and scholarly study, these are the pots that prove that"


Ben Williams, International Consultant - Ceramics, Phillips

About the Late Dr. John P Driscoll Collection

Dr. John P Driscoll was a well-known and respected art dealer from New York specialising in the Hudson River School. Early in his career he realised if he wanted to collect personally it would be necessary to collect in an area different from his professional speciality. In the 70s Driscoll was introduced to ceramics whilst working under Bill Hull, Director of Penn State Museum of Art. Hull’s 1976 exhibition Twenty-Four British Potters ignited in Driscoll a four-decade passion and drive to build a comprehensive survey of studio ceramics from the 20th century.

“My first purchases from the Twenty-Four British Potters show were outstanding works, yet economically modest…After I bought those initial pots, I was just viscerally, intellectually, and aesthetically energized, and focused on the quest to see more and acquire more…”


John Driscoll interview with Glenn Adamson, Things of Beauty Growing

Driscoll’s interest in studio ceramics went beyond the aesthetic as he built relationships with some of the century’s greats including Lucie Rie, Elizabeth Fritsch and Ewen Henderson. Every year Driscoll visited the UK to meet with the potters he admired and collected – his tendency was to search out pots from different points in each artist’s career, with the aim to tell each artist’s story within his collection. Driscoll combined an academic approach to collecting with a passion to live and experience the pieces in his home.

The collection is not limited to British Studio potters as Driscoll grew his understanding and knowledge of Japanese, Danish and Nigerian artists. He also collected archival documents from some of the leading potters of the 20th Century, including his own correspondence with Elizabeth Fritsch. Key pieces from the Leach archives have been donated from the collection of the late Dr. John P Driscoll to the Crafts Study centre in Farnham.

Driscoll enjoyed searching out works with exceptional provenance which told a story. Of the Rie and Coper pots in the sale, will be a monumental piece Coper himself exchanged for a goat called Jennea with Writhlington School near Frome and a Rie from pre-war Vienna which she carried wrapped in clothes in her suitcase when she fled Austria for England in 1938 and lived with for her entire life. A further highlight includes a historically important Bernard Leach Dish with inscription by William Blake.

A number of works featured in the November sale have previously been shown at Fitzwilliam Museum and are included in the book Things of Beauty Growing: British Studio Pottery.


Maak Contemporary Ceramics will be presenting further curated selections from the collection of the late Dr. John P Driscoll over the course of 2022/23.

10 November 2021 | Phillips, Berkeley Square, London


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