In 2003, Michel Bernardaud set up the Fondation Bernardaud to explore new avenues for porcelain, a magnificent but little-known material with unsuspected qualities and properties. The idea was to invite creators in various disciplines to exhibit their work in Limoges or to come explore porcelain’s assets as an artistic material and experience first hand the commitment found at Bernardaud, which has upheld the values of technical know-how, innovation and creativity since 1863.
Passing on knowledge : a duty of the house
The Fondation Bernardaud set three key objectives :
- Create a cultural center with a ‘‘Discover Porcelain’’ tour to explain the history and art of making porcelain. Every summer, it presents a themed exhibition focusing on contemporary ceramics.
- Invite guest artists to help ‘‘reinvent porcelain’’ and show that contemporary artists are increasingly choosing porcelain as a material.
- Help public authorities realize the importance of ‘‘the skilled hand.’’
A special ‘‘Discover Porcelain’’ tour
A major local business with a long history and close ties to its native region, Bernardaud has undertaken a campaign targeting art connoisseurs and the public at large. The idea is to educate people about porcelain and do away with preconceived ideas. The Fondation Bernardaud conducts year-round guided tours to show visitors how porcelain is made. Unlike a conventional museum, visitors are encouraged to touch objects, look closely at the tools on display and try their hand at this craft. This original concept allows visitors to actually experience the techniques and gestures used to make porcelain.
A large-scale annual exhibition
Since 2003, the Fondation Bernardaud has presented a large annual exhibition, applying standards as high as those imposed at the factory. This event has become a highlight that no connoisseur of the ceramic arts would want to miss. Its scope is particularly broad, because the term ‘‘ceramics’’ (from the Greek keramos) designates any earthenware object that has undergone firing. Traditional ceramics falls into four categories : pottery (or fired clay), earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The purpose is to show visitors a few of the rich and varied ways of using this material from all over the world. From the beginning, the Fondation Bernardaud has made a point of presenting any given artist no more than once in a ten-year period and exclusively featuring works that have not been shown before in France. By spotlighting French or international artists that have had few occasions to display their works in France and are therefore not well known here, the Fondation celebrates the vital role on the international art scene played by ceramics, especially porcelain, one of the most interesting and promising media to be found today.
Some of the exhibitions held in Limoges subsequently travel to major museums in France and abroad (e.g. Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris ; The Museum of Art and Design, New York City ; The Gardiner Museum, Toronto ; The New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taipei ; The CODA museum, Appeldorn, The Netherlands ; and The World Jewelry Museum, Seoul).