Piet Stockmans exhibits his entire life’s work in the retrospective exhibition The Archive
Looking back is nothing for Piet Stockmans. Last year, the most famous Belgian porcelain artist turned 80. Remarkably enough, he took the opportunity to look ahead, towards death, and designed his own coffin as a final resting place.
But now, one year later, it is finally time to look back. For the first time in his rich career and life, he is opening his archive to the public. The retrospective exhibition The Archive offers a unique insight into the designer’s life and work and gives an overview of Piet Stockmans’ oeuvre from 1963 to the present. The focus is on who the artist is, where he comes from, and what he has designed.
Stockmans’ oeuvre – and thus his archive – is extremely varied, ranging from extensive research into finding the perfect shade of blue, to urns and jewellery in porcelain for keeping precious memories alive, and the iconic ‘Sonja’ cup, which he designed for the Maastricht porcelain factory Mosa in 1976 – a design that would go on to sell some 30 million cups in its first decade alone.
The exhibition is therefore composed of three parts:
- Piet Stockmans talks about himself, his training, and his work for and with third parties.
- Part two is an overview of 34 years of Studio Pieter Stockmans. In addition to the applied work for the studio, this section also includes a tribute to Piet Stockmans by Frank Claesen.
- The third part shows Piet Stockmans’ works of art from 1967 to 2015.
From an early stage, Stockmans combined applied work with free work. He is therefore both an industrial designer and an artist. In 1987, he founded Studio Pieter Stockmans, the Belgian specialists in the production of hard porcelain. His studio is known for unique tableware in high-quality porcelain and has focused from the start on small, unique collections. Studio Pieter Stockmans combines a traditional, in-house form of production (with each design made entirely within the studio from A to Z) with a contemporary, experimental approach. The studio has worked together with international Michelin-starred chefs, such as Sergio Herman, Alain Ducasse and Lanshu Chen, and also made the plate for the royal wedding in Monaco.
As a designer, Piet Stockmans is constantly pushing the boundaries for the medium of porcelain. His exceptional design objects have acquired a national and international reputation and are exhibited in such prestigious museums as the Victoria & Albert in London, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
In the meantime, Piet Stockmans has passed on his know-how and love for the product to his daughter, Widukind, who has been in charge of the daily management of the studio since 2007, and to his son-in-law Frank Claesen, who creates the new designs. Together with a team of six, they continue the special heritage of traditional hard porcelain in the studio.
Turning 80 has created an extra dynamic for me. I’ve worked all my life and came to a point that invites me to stop, and perhaps for the first time in my life, to really look back. My work fills entire rooms and shelves. Some of my works travel around and stick around for all sorts of reasons. I feel the need to draw a line under this whole life. It’s an opportunity to put everything I have created in a row, to preserve the essence and open it up to the public, and try to give the rest a place where it can still fulfil a function. That is why I am building an archive on the first floor of the Studio. That archive will be filled with my work. The focus will be on who I am, where I come from, and what I have shaped. I am thinking especially of the studio, and what else I have made and want to tell something about. It is a good time to release this. For everything I did, I had reasons, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and naive as I am, I was often not aware of them. That’s why I always say that if you want to know who I am and how my life turned out, you should look at my work.”
— Piet Stockmans
Piet Stockmans studied ceramics at the Higher Institute for Architecture and Applied Arts in Hasselt. After work placements in several porcelain factories in Germany and France, he went to work for the Maastricht manufacturer Mosa in 1966. It was precisely that choice to look for a company turning out mass-produced ceramics that made Stockmans unique in Flanders. At that time, there were no such companies in Belgium, which meant that Flemish artists were more likely to work with ceramics.
People can discover "the archive" on their own or with a guide. Texts, audio and video are provided.
In December the Pieter Stockmans Studio is open every day from 1 to 23 December 2021.
From 2 January 2022 onwards the normal opening hours apply.
Info & bookings via pietstockmans.com
Images of the exhibition 'The Archive':
Images of archive pieces for sale: