AUCTIONS

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Bonhams presents an important but virtually unknown name - Kenkichi Tomimoto - at its contemporary ceramics sale, Wednesday and Thursday (6pm). The Japanese artist was taught to throw pots by the grandfather of British studio pottery, Bernard Leach.

Hitherto, mention of Leach and Japan has conjured only the name Shoji Hamada, who was Leach's inspiration during his 11 year stay in the country from 1909. But it was in Tokyo in 1912 that "Tomi" used Leach's wheel to make his first pot.

There are pots by Hamada at most Bonhams' auctions but Tomi's are scarce and sought after by collectors. This sale has 11 pieces of his. There is an exquisite 5-inch high white octagonal lidded pot of 1935 estimated at pounds 1,800-pounds 2,500 and a set of five porcelain dishes with red circles enclosing blue painted landscapes that he gave to Bernard and Janet Leach as a wedding present.

Estimated pounds 6,000-pounds 8,000, they are from Janet Leach's outstanding collection of Dame Lucie Rie, who died last year, having achieved the reputation of Britain's greatest potter. Bernard Leach's sepia pen and wash drawing of a dew pond on the South Downs, est pounds 1,200-pounds 1,800, belonged to her.

For those with limited funds who share her eye for promising pots, an unnamed stoneware St Ives coffee pot with ill-fitting lid, once part of her collection, is estimated pounds 140-pounds 180. The buyer gets an enviable provenance and the right to speculate that Dame Lucie fell in love with the pot because it has low-slung ergonomically efficient handle, a design feature she pioneered.

Rubbing shoulders with dozens of "Bernards" and "Lucies" at Bonhams are an unprecedented number of comparatively unknown names trying their luck for the first time in the contemporary ceramics market's most prestigious point of sale. It is an unusual market in having fewer dealers than you can count on one hand. Instead of buying cheap at auction and selling dear in the high street, they often find themselves outbid by private buyers at Bonhams, where prices are determined.

So, to have a pot accepted for auction by Bonhams' mandarin Cyril Frankel is an honour. There are works by a dozen newcomers in this sale. My favourite: a porcelain ceramic hound by Paul Priest (b.1947), a virtual newcomer to Bonhams. It is an old scraggy creature, full of febrile movement made livelier by Priest's cultivation of an unfinished touch - as in the crimped pie-crust treatment of the hound's spine. Est: pounds 120-pounds 180.

John Windsor

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