WCMFA presents “Bouke de Vries: War & Pieces”

Hagerstown, MD – The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ iconic Schrieber Gallery will be stunningly transformed this fall with the installation of War & Pieces—a work by internationally known London-based Dutch artist Bouke de Vries. The exhibition will be on view until March 13, 2022.


War & Pieces is a 24’ long “tablescape” created from fragments of porcelain arranged to form an epic battle scene. The focal point of the installation is a  soaring mushroom cloud created from fragments of porcelain figures, including the Chinese goddess of compassion Guanyin and the crucified Christ, who rise above the  debris-strewn battleground. Created as a contemporary evocation of the spectacular arrangements that  adorned 17th– and 18th –century banquets, the installation, has been described as “spectacular,” “remarkable,” “not to be missed,” “epic,” “intricate,” “dramatic,” “witty and sly”—and  “a masterwork” by art critics and the public. The exhibition is currently touring North America.

Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, Bouke de Vries studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven and Central St. Martin’s, London. After working in the fashion industry with John Galliano, Stephen Jones, and Zandra Rhodes, he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration at West Dean College. He has been a full-time studio artist working in London since 2010.

His work in ceramic conservation—reassembling and repairing broken objects—led de Vries to a distinct style in which his primary materials are ceramic fragments and pieces, which he uses to create fascinating, and often provocative artworks that create a dialogue between our contemporary consumer culture and ceramics itself as a historic commodity. Porcelain, for a time, was among the most coveted of luxury objects—described as “white gold”—Europeans struggled for centuries to learn the secret to creating porcelain, which had been perfected in China. Kings and nobles had porcelain rooms installed in their palaces to show off their collections.

Once Europeans developed porcelain (the first manufactory, Meissen, was formed in 1710) it began to find its way to the dining table. In fact, porcelain figurines began to be used to create elaborate, entertaining tabletop tableaux intended to spark conversation. Originally these sculptural banquet installations were made from molded sugar (also a rare and prized commodity, signifying status), but porcelain figurines soon supplanted those made of sugar.

War & Pieces brings together the imagery of classical sugar figurines, architectural follies, and allegorical scenes of the opulent 18th century with the tactility of shattered and discarded porcelain fragments. The result is a sculpted post-apocalyptic battle that becomes the centerpiece within a European banquet hall. While visually delightful, this confluence of high society, the human impulse to conflict and resolution, past and present, asks us to reflect on our history of conquest and consumption while contemplating our present.

In his largest work to date, War & Pieces combines the discarded ceramic remnants from the artist’s work as an art conservator, and infuses them with emotion, history and craft eluding to a wasteland that is both historical and ever present. Originally commissioned by the Holburne Museum in Bath, England, in 2012, War and Pieces has traveled throughout the UK, Europe and Asia.  The North American tour of Bouke de Vries: War & Pieces has been organized by Ferrin Contemporary.

Exhibition Opening, 90th Birthday Celebration

September 16, 2021, 5:30-8:30pm

Call the museum for details about this special celebratory evening. Capacity is limited and masks and social distancing will be required. Cost: $40 per person, $35 for museum members.

 Associated Programs

A variety of engaging complementary on-line programs are scheduled to enhance enjoyment of the exhibition, including discussions, lectures, concerts, and lesson-plans for use in classroom or at home. Check wcmfa.org, or the Museum’s social media pages for more details on registration and access.


Located In beautiful City Park, Hagerstown, Maryland, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1931, the legacy of Hagerstown native Anna Brugh Singer and her husband, Pittsburgh-born artist William Henry Singer, Jr. Featuring a collection of more than 6,000 objects, the Museum has important holdings of American painting, Old Masters, decorative arts, and sculpture. The Museum schedules an ambitious program of exhibitions, lectures, concerts, tours, and talks featuring national and international artists, as well as a yearly showcase of the art of students in Washington County Public Schools.  Its free youth art education programs have served four generations of local families.


Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is located at 401 Museum Drive, Hagerstown, Maryland. Free parking is available adjacent to the Museum. Beginning September 7, Hours are 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday; 100 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday; the Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts has been FREE to the public since 1931.


For additional information, images, or interview requests, please contact Donna Rastelli, at 301-739-5727 or drastelli@wcmfa.org.



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