Officine Saffi has announced the winners of the fourth edition of its ceramics award during the Salone del Mobile in Milan. The Officine Saffi Award, now in its fourth edition, is a biennial prize created to promote ceramics in contemporary culture.

Installation view, Officine Saffi Award 4 Installation view, Officine Saffi Award 4

The works of the 45 finalists who hail from 16 countries have taken centre stage in a large exhibition hosted in two venues: the Officine Saffi gallery and a new exhibition space in Piazza Virgilio in Milan. The installation is curated by designer Riccardo Rossi, who displayed the works in a lunar landscape made of the same red earth you find on tennis courts - it’s the same clay that is the base material for ceramics. “We had over 600 submissions from all over the world,” says Laura Borghi, the founder of Officine Saffi. “This year we noticed an increased participation from Italian artists such as Andrea Sala, Salvatore Arancio, Chiara Camoni, David Casini and Michele Guido.”

Installation view,Officine Saffi Award 4

The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to observe trends in contemporary ceramics. For years now, one of the prevailing trends has been the informal and material approach, as seen in the work of various artists including Icaro Maiterena. A newer trend is the attention paid to recycling materials and the place from which they come. For example, Tellurico, which has Neapolitan origins, mixes lava from Vesuvius from the surrounding landscape into the porcelain. Another artist, Annelie Grimwade Olofsson from Sweden, mixes the ashes of incinerated rubbish into her ceramic works.

Ícaro Maiterena, Solenoidal Movements, 2020, grès, 37x40x32 cm, 60x41x44 cm

Tellurico, Stracciatella Big bowl, Telluride, 2020, volcanic porcelain, 25 × 55 × 45 cm

An interesting young artist is Caterina Morigi, who participated in the competition with a work entitled "Honesty of Matter". Composed of two stones, one real and the other artificial, it was made by the Capodimonte porcelain manufactory (Real Fabbrica di Capodimonte). The artist's contribution is purely conceptual.

The international jury – composed of Alessandro Rabottini (independent curator, artistic director of In Between Art Film), Livia Peraldo Matton (director of Elle Decor), Christian Larsen (curator at MAD Museum), Alvise Braga Illa (art collector), Julian Stair (artist), Carolina Orsini (curator at MUDEC), Lisbet Friis (designer, member of the Danish Arts Foundation), Laura Borghi (founder of Officine Saffi) – chose two ceramic artists who have very different approaches. The €10,000 First Prize went to “Pus and Scabs” by Virginia Leonard for her psychologically layered and exuberant expressionism. The work is a sort of self-portrait of the artist who had an accident and suffers chronic pain. Her work speaks of suffering, but the outcome is positive and full of colour. The jury also awarded an acquisition prize to Maria Kristofersson for her quiet rigour and poetic exploration of space. Her work resembles an architectural drawing rather than a ceramic sculpture.

In addition to the first prize, eight residency awards were awarded. They are promoted in collaboration with some of the most prestigious international centres dedicated to ceramics (see the list below). For the first time, the Acquisition Award dedicated to young artists was given to Francesco Ardini for his work “Veduta”, a flat ceramic work made to be hung like a painting. For the special section, FOCUS: DENMARK, the special prize (which includes the creation of a solo exhibition in 2022 and a catalogue) was awarded to Turi Pedersen.

Virginia Leonard, Pus and Scabs, clay, lustre, resin, 74x50x58 cm

Maria Kristofersson, Proximity-Distance, earthenware clay, 45 x 35 x 18 cm

Eyvind Solli Andreassen, Lene 2019, grès, 38 × 40 × 40 cm

Residency awards

Wan Liya 

Marianne Huotari 

Bruckner Foundation: 
Icaro Maitereno 

Museo della Ceramica di Mondovì: 
Phoebe Cummings 

Este Ceramiche: 
Audrey Ballacchino 

International Ceramic Art Festival, Sasama: 

Päivi Rintaniemi e Città di Seinäjoki: 
Eyvind Solli Andreassen 

Officine Saffi Special Prize: 
Chiara Camoni 

All participants:

Gunilla Maria Åkesson (1963, Sweden), Anton Alvarez (1980, Sweden) , Eyvind Solli 
Andreassen (1986, Norway), Salvatore Arancio (1974, Italy), Francesco Ardini (1986, Italy), 
Audrey Ballacchino (1986, France), Chiara Camoni (1974, Italy), David Casini (1973, Italy), 
Rino Claessens (1994, The Netherlands) , Phoebe Cummings (1981, United Kingdom), 
Formabesta (1965-68, Spain), Jennifer Forsberg (1970, Sweden), Elly Glossop (1982, 
Scotland) , Annelie Grimwade Olofsson (1991, Sweden), Michele Guido (1976, Italy), Jessica 
Harrison (1982, United Kingdom), Marianne Huotari (1986, Finland), Julia Huteau (1982, France), Qwist Joseph (1987, USA), Jonathan Keep (1958, United Kingdom), Maria Kristofersson (1956, Sweden), Jeongwon Lee (1985, South Korea) , Icaro Maiterena (1978, Spain), Virginia Leonard (1965, New Zeland), Claire Lindner (1982, France) , Carlo Lorenzetti 
(1990, USA), Ian McDonald (1975, USA), Domenico Mangano & Marieke Van Rooy (1974-76, 
IT-NL), Caterina Morigi (1991, Italy), Monika Patuszyńska (1973, Poland), Gregorio Peño 
Velasco (1983, Spain), Héloïse Piraud (1988, France), Andrea Sala (1976, Italy), Catherine 
Sanke (1990, Germany), Francesco Simeti (1968, Italy), John Souter (1989, USA), Akiko 
Taniguchi (1978, Japan), Tellurico (1985, Italy), Iren Tete (1990, USA), Liya Wan (1963, 

Words by Silvia Anna Barrilà