Porcelain: Material and Storytelling

February 15–March 6, 2022

A bulbous ceramic sculpture made from vase fragments with gold joints

Porcelain is an artistic medium as well as a material substance. It can be used to represent figures and to tell stories in two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms, and its own materiality can also be made into the subject of artistic expression.

This small exhibition presents three such possibilities with selected examples from different cultures and periods. Works in one group display the two basic elements of porcelain artifacts—a ceramic body and glaze—as the focus of representation. Another group focuses on the aestheticization of cracking, a feature of porcelain ware which has inspired ancient and contemporary artists to create original works. Those in the third group are narrative in nature, inviting viewers to contemplating the different uses of porcelain as a pictorial medium. 

The audience is encouraged to think about the shared features and qualities of all these examples, and to ask the underlying question: Why porcelain?

Related programs

Ballet des Porcelaines
Wednesday, March 2, 7:30 pm
Thursday, March 3, 7:30 pm

Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the Ballet des Porcelaines (also known as The Teapot Prince), an eighteenth- century French pantomime-ballet reimagined for the twenty-first century as an interdisciplinary project by Meredith Martin (NYU) and Phil Chan (Final Bow for Yellowface), which will be performed at the University of Chicago on March 2 and March 3, 2022. The short performances, sponsored by UChicago Arts, the Center for East Asian Studies, the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, the Office of the Provost, and the Music Department at the University of Chicago, will be followed by in-depth panels on art history, dance and diversity, along with Q&A sessions with the artists. 


Published in conjunction with the exhibition, this brochure features three essays written by University of Chicago PhD students that delve into the exhibition’s central themes of substance, cracking, and storytelling, as well as a translation of Pu Songling’s story “Mister Sea.”

Above: Yeesookyung, Translated Vase, 2007, Ceramic fragments, epoxy, and gold leaf. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Gay-Young Cho and Christopher Chiu in honor of Richard A. Born, 2010.4. Art © Yeesookyung.