More than 40 works from an American collector acquired by the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA)

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Internationally significant ceramics donated to York Art Gallery

DATE: 24 March 2021

More than 40 ceramic works, many of international significance, have been acquired by York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

The ceramics, which date from the 1970s to 2000s, were part of a larger selection of ceramics and fine art belonging to the late American collector Patricia Barnes.

Working with the Barnes’ family, the Contemporary Art Society has helped place part of the collection into appropriate collections in the UK, where the collector spent part of her life.

The collection includes significant works from the period by artists such as Carol McNichol, Alison Britton and Quentin Bell, many of which were previously not represented in CoCA’s collection.

Dr Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics, said: “This group of remarkable objects offers the opportunity to showcase an important female American collector, who was sending her acquisitions back to the USA as well as displaying them in her London home. All of the works are of a superior quality and are unique with many featuring in important contemporary exhibitions and publications. The majority of the works coming to York are also by female artists whose importance and impact has typically been overlooked.

“We would like to thank the Contemporary Art Society and the family of Patricia Barnes for donating to the collections of CoCA, we are looking forward to displaying and interpreting the fantastic works for visitors to enjoy.”

Caroline Douglas, Director, Contemporary Art Society, said: “It has been a great pleasure to work with the collection of such an outstanding patron of contemporary ceramicists.  Patricia Barnes was a remarkable woman, whose years of friendship with a close circle of artists reflect a lifetime of commitment to new and has meant that an important moment in the history of British ceramics is preserved in one of our most distinguished public collections.”

The works coming to York are by artists Carol McNicoll, Jacqueline Poncelet, Janice Tchalenko, Alison Britton, Jill Crowley, Elda Griffiths, Angus Suttie, Henry Pim, Quentin Bell, Ken Eastman, David Garland, Hilton Nel and Bryan Illsley.

The works will go on show in CoCA’s galleries early next year.


Brief biography of Patricia Barnes

The daughter of a prominent heart doctor, Patricia Barnes, was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928. She grew up in Miami and attended Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, which helped spark a lifelong interest in literature and the arts.
She married in 1949 and had four children. As her children grew older, she attended Northwestern University to study for a masters degree in English Literature followed by teaching composition at Malcolm X College in Chicago.

Realising there was little career possibilities for women in the male dominated world of academia, she reinvented herself as a real estate developer and property manager. She also assisted her second husband, a noted book dealer, where she found the intellectual stimulation she craved. Her real estate business thrived and together they would travel the world to buy books for the store as well as art for her new collection.

In later years she lived part time in London where her role model was Vanessa Bell and the Bloomsbury group. There she became a noted collector of contemporary British ceramics, with one artist friend noting “she had an exquisite eye for the best stuff.” She opened The London Gallery in Winnetka, Illinois to showcase many of the artists she avidly collected.

Patricia died peacefully of natural causes aged 91 at home in Evanston, Illinois. Other parts of her collections were donated in her honor to two other museums in the UK and the Art Institute of Chicago.