Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Synonyms can be as helpful as they are confusing. The recently opened mima (lower case is house style) is useful shorthand for Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. The splendid new building houses the long-established collection of studio ceramics, which is one of the best in the country, though alas, only on show from time to time. The most recent synonym is MAD, short for museum of arts and design (again lower case, which is obviously in fashion). Quite what to make of MAD as a title is open to question. It is certainly memorable but does not immediately suggest the eloquence and sensuality of art or design. Nevertheless, it may catch on – ‘See you at MAD’ may become a sort of catchphrase, rather like the V&A’s ‘great cafĂ© with museum attached’ (now abandoned). MAD does promise great things including the piece by Haruymi Nakashima, Struggling Form (pictured). The intriguing assembly suggests both organic and manufactured form, and the blue and white takes us back to Ming Dynasty China.
While the US has several major museums devoted to craft, some solely to ceramics, the UK languishes hopelessly behind, with sporadic shows in various galleries but no national collection that offers regular displays, changing exhibitions and a ‘craft culture’ to initiate debate, discussion and information. Maybe it could be part of the Olympic bid?

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