A New Spin: Chinese Ceramics, Stateside

The ancient art of Chinese ceramics gets a contemporary twist—and a second location in New York.

Brad Stein
OF 7

Arne Glimcher thinks New York is a weird city. “If you live uptown or midtown, you need a passport to come down here,” says the founder and chairman of the seminal Pace Gallery, speaking from his recent investment, Spin Ceramics, in SoHo. “It is unbelievable how people don’t leave their neighborhoods.” Which is why last December, the 11⁄2-year-old studio located on lower Crosby Street opened a boutique on Fifth Avenue, inside Bergdorf Goodman. “I invited Linda Fargo to the shop and she immediately said Bergdorf’s had to carry our pieces,” Glimcher says, referring to Bergdorf’s senior vice president of fashion and store presentation director. “It’s difficult to get an individual spot within the store. They don’t hand them out easily.”

But what Glimcher and business partner Clay Cunningham are offering is an easy sell: ceramics that are way beyond simple Crate and Barrel–style dinnerware yet are still an incredible value. “You can buy beautiful things here for $50. And the porcelain clay we are using is from the same mountain that the great Ming dynasty porcelains were made from. It’s that quality,” says Glimcher. Cunningham adds, “It’s known for being as white as jade and as thin as paper. It’s also fired at a very high temperature, and is extremely strong, so it’s still microwave and dishwasher safe.”

Spin Ceramics was established in Shanghai in 2002 by software engineer and restaurant owner Jeremy Kuo and his artistic director, Gary Wang when the duo began experimenting with dinnerware designs for Kuo’s sushi restaurant. Outposts in Beijing and Singapore followed. “In 2008, when Pace opened in Beijing, Clay put Spin on my list of things to see,” says Glimcher. “He was working in Singapore and was my wife’s private banker. I thought it was the most spectacular modern design I had seen. I am sort of a design nut as well as an art nut. I sent some pieces home, my wife loved them, and the next time we went, we bought tons more. So when Clay asked me to invest in Spin’s first American location, I jumped at the chance.”

Glimcher went all out to make the Crosby Street flagship beautiful, emulating the style of the shop in Beijing with glass shelving and grid displays. “I wanted to make the store look like China,” he says. “The bricks on the wall are actually from the ancient gateway to Shanghai; they are about 500 years old. The gateway was torn down, and the artist Zhang Huan, whom we represent, bought the entire thing. He had all these bricks, so I asked him for some for the shop. I got carried away!”

Cunningham curates all the pieces, taking care to supply Bergdorf’s with an exclusive selection. The company’s in-house team of nine designers, based in suburban Shanghai, produces 20 to 30 designs a year. “Our designers spend an incredible amount of time making sure each piece has the right feel and look,” Cunningham says. As a result, no two handmade items are alike, and when a collection sells out, the design is retired. “So you only have a certain amount of time to buy them before new ones are introduced,” says Glimcher.

13 Crosby St.; 212-226-6085; and at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave.; spinceramics.com.