Family business: Simon and Leopold Thun launch ceramics residency in South Tyrol

Peter and Leopold Thun launch ceramics residency in South Tyrol, teaming up with the Cass Sculpture Park’s curatorial director Claire Shea to inaugurate the Thun Ceramic Residency in Bolzano

Book shelf and reading hall room with wooden floor
Thun Ceramics has teamed up with the Cass Sculpture Park’s curatorial director Claire Shea to launch the Thun Ceramic Residency in Bolzano, Italy
(Image credit: Claire Shea)

For the Thun family, ceramics have been part of family life since 1950, when Count Otmar Thun and his wife, Countess Lene, founded a small ceramic studio nestled in the Alps at Castle Klebenstein in Bolzano, South Tyrol.

In 1978 the studio was passed on to their 23-year-old son, Peter who turned Thun Ceramics (opens in new tab) into an international enterprise with sites in Germany and China as well as international flagships.

Now coming full circle, this summer saw Peter's son Simon and nephew Leopold – the son of designer Matteo Thun – team up with the Cass Sculpture Park's curatorial director Claire Shea to inaugurate the Thun Ceramic Residency (opens in new tab) in Bolzano. Three artists – Americans Cassie Griffin and Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Londoner Jesse Wine – were invited to come and produce work at the Alpine studio over the course of the summer.

'I moved to London and soon discovered how popular ceramics were becoming again in contemporary art,' recalls London-based Leopold of his light-bulb moment. 'This fueled my interest to discover more and more emerging artists working with this medium in London but struggling to fulfill their ambitions due to space, money and firing limitations. At the same time my uncle's ceramic production recently moved from Bolzano to China. This meant that he was left with a lot of empty space and unused kilns in one of the most stunning places in Europe. When adding the two it became apparent what we had to do.'

On 18 September this year, the fruits of their labour were unveiled for the first time in Countess Lene's old apartment. Having been closed for the past ten years – she passed away in 2004 – the apartment, called The White House, remains as she left it, filled with personal objects and collections. Shards of pottery, stones, stove tiles and pinecones, as well as various works by her son Matteo, fill the shelves and surfaces; now in among them sit works by Griffin, Lutz-Kinoy and Wine, opening a dialogue between the old and the new.

While Wine's figures and objects, including a ceramic reproduction of the White House are a direct response to the residency, Griffin has created a series of deconstructed collapsed vessels that follow on from her existing, more functional vessel series. Scattered throughout the garden, living room, guest room and bathroom, Lutz-Kinoy has produced a series of birdbaths, basins and gargoyles that reference decorative architectural features.

'It was wonderful to see to which degrees the artists experimented within their practice, creating works that were unlike anything they had done before,' says Leopold. 'At the same time, the exhibition at the end of the residency gave them a goal to work towards and the possibility to enter into a more profound dialogue with the unique cultural and art historical setting of South Tyrol. Each year the artists are also asked to leave one work behind. Ideally this residency would hence run for another 100 summers, becoming an archive of all the amazing artists who will pass by here in the years to come.'

Artwork of the artists placed in the bookshelf

The inaugural exhibition, called 'Dear Material Things', places the artwork of the artists in residence into the recently-opened home of Lene Thun, the company's co-founder and matriarch

(Image credit: Lene Thun)

Sceneries and book shelf placed in the room

Three artists – Americans Cassie Griffin and Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Londoner Jesse Wine – were invited to come and produce work at the Alpine studio over the course of the summer

(Image credit: Americans Cassie Griffin and Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Londoner Jesse Wine)

Objects placed on a wooden table

Left: Matthew Lutz-Kinoy's Black Bird Bath. Right: Cassie Griffin has textured the surfaces of her Untitled to make it useless as a serviceable object

(Image credit: Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Cassie Griffin)

Ceramic and miniature cardboard version of the structure

Jesse Wine's ceramic reproduction of the family home, Messup, sits next to a miniature cardboard version of the same building, a direct response to the setting of the residency

(Image credit: Jesse Wine)

Material things placed on the table in a large room

The exhibition takes its name from an essay by Italian critic Mario Praz, a staunch defender of the sensual experience garnered from material things, and the important part they play within our lives

(Image credit: Mario Praz)

Ancient structures placed in the kitchen

Moody Wine by Jesse Wine, found in the building's kitchen, is a reimagining of a classic container, once again rendered functionally useless

(Image credit: Jesse Wine)

Structures placed on the table in a room

Left: Jessie Wine's Gladiator, top film. Right: Cassie Griffin's Untitled vase

(Image credit: Jessie Wine, Cassie Griffin)

Structure placed within the kitchen

Another Cassie Griffin piece – also Untitled – within the kitchen

(Image credit: Cassie Griffin)

Structures placed on wooden table

Left: Untitled, by Cassie Griffin; Right: Italian, by Jesse Wine

(Image credit: Cassie Griffin, Jesse Wine)

Works placed on an ivy-covered external wall

Sat on an ivy-covered external wall are Matthew Lutz-Kinoy's gargoyle-and-fountain-inspired works

(Image credit: Matthew Lutz-Kinoy)

Exhibition structures placed on a table

The exhibition can be visited by appointment only

(Image credit: courtesy of TCR and Luca Meneghel)

INFORMATION

Dear Material Things (opens in new tab)’ is now on show at Thun Ceramics’ White House, South Tyrol, by appointment only

ADDRESS

Thun Ceramic Residency
Via Galvani
I-39100 Bolzano

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