I acquired this bowl by Jade Snow Wong for the Baltimore Museum of Art’s collection. This was the first work by Wong, and the second by a named Asian American woman artist to enter the BMA’s Decorative Arts collection. Below is my acquisition justification for the purchase:
Jade Snow Wong (1922-2006) was an American ceramicist, enameler, and author who was based in San Francisco. She is most known for her brightly colored, enameled copper tableware. Additionally, her first memoir, Fifth Chinese Daughter, published in 1950, is a canonical, widely-taught work of East Asian American literature. Wong’s artistry is enjoying a renaissance of interest in the current moment.
Wong’s enameled copper pieces launched her career as an artist. During her lifetime, Wong’s work was featured in exhibitions at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, deYoung Legion Museum, Cincinnati Museum of Art, and Museum of Modern Art, and she also had a solo show at the Art Institute of Chicago that traveled throughout the country and around the world. Her work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Detroit Institute of Fine Art, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, among others.
The bowl recommended for acquisition is a bright red, double-enameled piece. The double-enameling is technically difficult, as the maker must powder the enamel on both the interior and exterior of the bowl before firing in the kiln. Here, Wong has carefully applied the enamel so that copper shines through red enamel towards the top edges of the bowl, allowing the bowl to glow. On the bottom of the bowl, Wong has punched her trademark, semi-circular signature of “Jade Snow Wong – San Francisco.” This bowl is similar in size to the type ‘G’ bowl in Wong’s studio inventory, which she designed as a fruit bowl. Her inspiration to create copper enameled bowls came from her training in ceramics, as well as her interest in making beautiful, usable design. She said, “Because I kept house, I also wanted to create objects of beauty which could be used in the average home.” Wong’s enameled copper pieces, one of which was a red bowl, was included in the 1947 MoMA exhibition, 100 Useful Objects of Fine Design, curated by Mies van der Rohe (American, 1886-1969).
This would be the first work by Wong to enter our collection. Wong’s Bowl will follow the recent acquisition of the enameled bracelets by Adda Husted-Andersen (American, 1900-1990), building a collection of mid-century American enameled pieces designed and fabricated by women. Additionally, this piece will be the second work by an Asian American woman in our Decorative Arts collection, joining the ceramic pot by Toshiko Takaezu (American, 1929-2011) (1966.31).
Curator of record: Sarah Cho