The power of taste: the dispersal of the Berkeley Smith collection of Chinese ceramics at Cheltenham Art Gallery Museum (1921-1960)

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Abstract

In 1921, Stanley Berkeley Smith (1878-1955), a British banker based in Karachi, offered his collection of around 800 Chinese ceramics on loan to Cheltenham Art Gallery Museum. Berkeley Smith had spent the previous 21years acquiring the objects in India - and a Chinese Porcelain Room was duly opened at the Museum in 1923. Tastes in Chinese ceramics, however, were changing. From the 1920s, Cheltenham?s curator invited London specialists to inspect Berkeley Smith?s ceramics. One influential dealer even recommended that some of the pieces were not ?museum worthy? and should be disposed of. So it was that between 1946 and 1960 almost 500 of Berkeley Smith?s ceramics were sold at auction in Cheltenham and London. This paper examines the relationship between Berkeley Smith and Cheltenham Art Gallery Museum from 1920s to 1950s, exploring how his collection became entangled within shifting landscapes of taste in Chinese art during this time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-343
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the History of Collections
Volume28
Issue number2
Early online date28 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

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