York Art Gallery

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Explore the remarkable collection of W.A. Ismay MBE (1910-2001), the UK’s most prolific collector of post-war British studio pottery, in a new exhibition opening at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) this month.

Ismay accumulated over 3,600 pieces by more than 500 potters between 1955 and 2001. Upon his death, he left his collection and its associated archive to the city of York. It has been 20 years since the Ismay Collection moved from private to public ownership, and CoCA are celebrating that anniversary with an exciting new display.

Items from Ismay’s vast archive documenting his life and ceramics collection will be on public display for the first time, offering visitors the chance to learn more about his remarkable life. The eclectic collection on display will include objects created by many of the most significant potters working in the UK, such as Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew, as well as examples of work by lesser-known makers. Themes explored include competitive collecting, functional ceramics and domestic display. There is a focus on key artists in the collection, particularly those working in Yorkshire, such Barbara Cass who had a studio on The Shambles, York and Sheffield-born Jim Malone, the potter whom Ismay collected the most works by.

The exhibition coincides with the launch of the first major book on the W.A. Ismay Collection, written by Dr Walsh and published by the Centre of Ceramic Art and Paul Holberton Publishing. The book, which is based on new research, will be available to buy at York Art Gallery from 30 October 2021.