Telling the story of Danish culture through CLAY
By Tina Nielsen | Photos: Sylvain Deleu
The largest ceramics museum in the Nordics, and with a strong international profile, CLAY Museum of Ceramic Art Denmark offers an enviably large collection representing the country’s cultural heritage.
As a relatively young museum, at 26 years, CLAY, which is located in Middelfart on Fünen, continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Originally opened in 1994, the museum’s profile was boosted dramatically in 2010, when it was the recipient of a substantial donation from Royal Scandinavia, consisting of 60,000 pieces. The historical collection originates in the country’s three renowned companies: Royal Copenhagen, Bing & Grøndahl and Aluminia.
“The donation marked the beginning of a significant development in the museum and brought a twenty-fold increase in the collection,” says museum director Pia Wirnfeldt.“It is Denmark’s ceramic heritage that has been gifted to us, and it has made us the largest museum for ceramic art, crafts and design in the Nordics.” This addition to the collection also led to an extension of the building in Middelfart.
Ceramics is an artform with deep, strong and proud traditions in Denmark. “We have a real tradition of ceramics because of all the clay in our subsoil, and we have used it for both functional pieces and art,” adds Wirnfeldt.
While it is practically impossible to exhibit 60,000 pieces at once, the main exhibition of CLAY, named Skattekammeret – or ‘the Treasury’ – shows off 1,000 pieces at any time. In addition to this permanent collection, there are three platforms dedicated to temporary exhibitions. “What we offer at CLAY is this historical collection that we apply different perspectives to,” explains Wirnfeldt. “We invite contemporary artists to work in conjunction with and take inspiration from the large historical collection to create new pieces.”
Currently, three ceramic artists, among them the international profile Malene Hartmann Rasmussen, come together in an exhibition, named Nature. Traces & Reflections, which runs until 13 March 2022.
Another exhibition documents the rich cultural heritage and reflects the socio-cultural development in Denmark represented by Danish dinner services. This exhibition, Danish Dinner Services – from Delightful Flowers to Raw Glazes, sees 20 dinner services, selected from the Royal Copenhagen Collection, and shows the history of the dinner and coffee services through pieces made of porcelain, stoneware and faience.
A boost in the visitor numbers means that, next year, work will commence on another architectural extension. “It is another exciting development, and it will help us present even the biggest names in ceramics to our visitors,” concludes Wirnfeldt.
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