The Everson Museum of Art’s internationally recognized ceramics collection includes some of the finest representations of modern and contemporary American ceramics in the United States. With comprehensive collections and archival holdings central to the history of American ceramics, the Everson is focused on becoming the country’s leading center for ceramics research and exhibitions.
Featuring more than 6,000 objects, the ceramics collection is at the core of the museum’s permanent collection. The Everson’s long-term commitment to the ceramic arts began in 1916 with the acquisition of thirty-two works by Adelaide Alsop Robineau, the one American studio potter whose work was ranked, without qualification, alongside that of Europe’s great masters in the early twentieth century. Robineau lived and worked in Syracuse at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement, earning international fame in 1911 after capturing first prize at the Turin International with her popularly named Scarab Vase – dubbed by many as the Mona Lisa of ceramics. Robineau’s master work has anchored the museum’s ceramics collection since its acquisition in 1916.
In the 100 years since acquiring the Scarab Vase, the Everson has continued to strengthen its focus on American ceramics. Notably, from 1932 until 1993, the Ceramic Nationals, a juried exhibition that attracted artists from across the country, was held at the Everson. The annual exhibition grew quickly in importance, and within its first eight years travelled to scores of American museums including the Whitney, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Many works in the Everson’s permanent collection were acquired directly through the Ceramic Nationals.
Not content to rest on the exhibition’s success, Everson Director James Harithas, along with artist and curator Margie Hughto, set out in 1972 to challenge the format, presentation, and limits of clay as a medium for artistic production. On January 23, 1976, New Works in Clay by Contemporary Painters and Sculptors opened at the Everson. The success of this project spurred a series of exhibitions, lectures, and acquisitions that continues to guide the Everson’s central role in contemporary American ceramics.