Lucie Rie: A New Zealand Connection
16 May – 26 Jul 2015
This exhibition celebrates artistic excellence and close personal friendships through the story of two artists who, forced to flee Austria on the brink of World War Two, went on to become leading figures in the modernist movements of their respective adopted countries.
Lucie Rie (1902–1995) and Ernst Plischke (1903–1992) met in Vienna when they were both in their twenties. Rie had recently finished her studies in ceramics at the Kunstgewerbeschule School of Art; Plischke was a freshly trained architect yet to secure his first commission. Rie commissioned an elegant apartment from Plischke, complete with built-in furniture designed to show her ceramic works. It was a decision that touched off a life-long friendship.
Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Rie emigrated to London in 1938, and Plischke to Wellington in 1939. Extraordinarily, Rie managed to take her Plischke surroundings into exile, transporting shelves and tables and sideboards into the mews house in Bayswater that she lived in for the rest of her life.
In New Zealand Plischke was immediately recognised by some as an important modernist architect, although his qualifications weren’t recognised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects, leading to something of a stand-off. As well as important works such as the Dixon Street Flats in Wellington, the Naenae town centre in Lower Hutt and St Mary’s Church in Taihape, Plischke made the time to secure several retail outlets for Rie’s work, including stockists in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin and Alexandra.
As a result, New Zealanders were able to appreciate and buy Rie’s elegant and refined ceramics, beautifully simple pieces ready to adorn beautifully simple modernist houses. Lucie Rie: A New Zealand Connection brings together pieces that still remain in private hands with star pieces from The Dowse collection and The Blumhardt Collection. These are accompanied by works by New Zealand ceramic artist John Parker, who trained under Lucie Rie at The Royal College of Art in London and acknowledges her as his greatest teacher.
Lucie Rie: A New Zealand Connection is a not-to-be-missed exhibition for lovers of ceramics, modernism, design, and beautiful objects.
The Dowse Podcast
Te Papa's curator of Decorative and Applied Arts, Justine Olsen, joined us on the podcast to talk about Lucie Rie's connections to New Zealand and also influential mid-20th century Wellington art dealer Helen Hitchings. Listen to the podcast here.
Renowned New Zealand ceramicist John Parker also joined us on the podcast to talk about his memories of Lucie Rie and impressions of her work. Listen to the podcast here.