Artist Bouke de Vries Makes His U.S. Debut With Three Museum Exhibitions

  • N. ADAMS, Massachusetts
  • /
  • November 27, 2018

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Bouke de Vries, War and Pieces, 2012. Installation view of Bouke de Vries: MATRIX 180 on view Oct 4, 2018–Jan 6, 2019. 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century porcelain, plastic, sprayed plaster, acrylic, steel, aluminum, gilded brass, and mixed media.
Photo courtesy of Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

For years the work of celebrated artist Bouke de Vries has been shown all over Europe in museums, galleries, castles and palaces. America won’t be left behind.

Now and through the middle of 2019, several sculptures by Dutch-born de Vries will be making their stateside debut at museums in Hartford, Conn., Montgomery, Ala. and Nashville, Tenn. Foremost among them is his pièce de résistance: War and Pieces, a 26-foot-long installation inspired by the lavish decorative centerpieces of 18th-century European banqueting tables.

Bouke de Vries Peacock 1 24 x 25 x 13.5" 20th century Chinese porcelain bird, 18th century Chinese porcelain fragments and mixed media
Ferrin Contemporary

The first venue is the Wadsworth Atheneum, in Hartford, Conn., where de Vries is the featured artist in the 180th installment of the museum’s MATRIX contemporary art exhibition series, running from October 4, 2018, to January 6, 2019. “Because the Wadsworth Atheneum possesses such an outstanding collection of the very kind of porcelain figures and centerpieces that Bouke de Vries references in his monumental work,” observes Linda Roth, Senior Curator and Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts, “featuring War and Pieces at our museum makes perfect sense.” Adds de Vries: “It is an honor to debut my most ambitious work at America’s first-ever museum of art, the Wadsworth Atheneum, in their longstanding and groundbreaking MATRIX series.”

From Hartford, War and Pieces travels South, to Alabama, where it will be on view at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts from February 2 to May 12, 2019.

Almost simultaneously, from February 2 to June 9, 2019, as part of Derived from the Decorative: Works by Faig Ahmed, Beth Lipman and Bouke de Vries at Nashville’s Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, where other works by de Vries will be making their American bow. Peacock 1 and Glass Cloud are also both constructed of broken pieces of historic ceramic and glass.

De Vries has taken that precursor and blown it to bits: literally and figuratively. Employing broken shards of various kinds of porcelain—ancient and modern, from Hummel thru blanc de Chine to IKEA—the artist has arranged them into apocalyptic vignettes of orchestrated destruction. Dead center is a towering nuclear mushroom cloud. Six mano-a-mano battle scenes flank the cloud, fought by armour-clad figures molded from 18th-century embodiments of Mars and Minerva by England’s Derby factory. The sugarcoated warring figures are mutating into cyborgs with colorful bionic limbs and weaponry from Transformer toys. The striking diversity among the sugar, porcelain and plastic underscores the tension between the handmade and the industrial. De Vries’s masterwork is an unforgettable commentary on the follies of war and is perhaps the most startling tablescape since Judy Chicago’s landmark Dinner Party, 1979.

Bouke de Vries Cloud - detail from War & Pieces 47.2” x 23.5" 18th-21st century porcelain and mixed media
Ferrin Contemporary

London-based, de Vries first worked in fashion with John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes before switching careers. Since then the 57-year-old artist has worked as a conservator of ceramics and glass, in addition to his pursuits as an artist since 2010. Ironically, the skills he deploys as a restorer went in a totally opposite direction for War and Pieces. Instead of reconstructing shattered porcelain, he deconstructed it, inaugurating a new status while creating new virtues. Says de Vries: “I have dreamed of sharing my approach to art—especially War and Pieces—at such prestigious museums around the United States.”

Bouke de Vries is represented in the United States by Ferrin Contemporary in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art:

600 Main Street Hartford CT, 06103

Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts:

One Museum Drive, Montgomery, Alabama 36117

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

1200 Forrest Park Drive   Nashville, Tennessee 37205 

Ferrin Contemporary:

1315 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts, 01247



Leslie Ferrin













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