'Staite' of the Art

19th March 2020

A vase which nobody wanted when it was first exhibited by the potter has set a record price for his work some 90 years later, after selling at auction for £35,000.

The large stoneware vase by William Staite Murray (Lot 409) sold as part of an extensive private collection at Woolley and Wallis in Salisbury on 18th March, but had been previously exhibited in London in 1931 where it failed to sell.

Murray was an English studio potter who went against the tradition set by potters such as Bernard Leach by viewing his pots as individual works of art rather than functional objects. Each piece was given a title, and Murray’s aim was for pottery to be viewed in the same way as sculpture or painting.

“We’ve recently seen a surge in interest for Murray’s work, and to achieve this record price shows just how keen collectors are to acquire his pottery,” explained Michael Jeffery, Design specialist at Woolley and Wallis. “This is also the first time a significant collection of his work has come up at auction, so it understandably drew a great deal of interest.”

In total, 28 examples of Murray’s work came under the hammer in Salisbury yesterday, with a total price of £95,400 (including buyer’s premium). The next highest price was achieved for a tall vase decorated with a wading bird on an oatmeal ground, which fetched £12,500.

The pieces were part of the larger collection of Daryl Fromm, whose collection of Martin Brothers Pottery drew headlines when it sold for over £200,000 in November last year. Fromm’s collection of William Staite Murray was exhibited at the Salisbury saleroom at the same time.

“Daryl has an incredible eye for the finest pieces of studio pottery,” said Michael. “He has a good understanding of the form and function of the objects and, over the last 40 plus years he has focused on acquiring the very best pieces produced by those potters he admires most. He was always keen to support practising potters and artists directly and counted Richard Batterham and William ‘Bill’ Marshall (both of whose work was included in the sale) as his friends.”

The full results of the sale on 18th March can be viewed by clicking here.


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