Jazz Bowl finds home in Cleveland

$121,000 piece bought at auction

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cleveland Museum of Art is crowing over the acquisition of the Jazz Bowl, “an internationally significant ceramic work” that was acquired at a Cincinnati auction in early June for a record price of $121,000. It is one of the highest prices ever paid for American Art Pottery.

        The Jazz Bowl, an Art Deco punch bowl in deep blue and white, was created in 1930 at the Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, Ohio, near Cleveland, by Viktor Schreckengost, “a very important American ceramic artist,” according to Riley Humler at Cincinnati Art Galleries.

        The first Jazz Bowl was designed for Eleanor Roosevelt to celebrate husband Franklin's election to the governorship of New York. Fewer than 50 copies of the the bowl were made, and only a dozen are known to exist.

        The Cleveland Museum had the winning bid at Cincinnati Art Galleries' Keramics 2000 auction, one of four ceramics auctions held in Cincinnati, June 2-4. The three auctions held by Cincinnati Art Galleries and Treadway Gallery's Rookwood Pottery auction the same weekend totaled more than $2 million in sales.

        The Cleveland Museum was eager to acquire the Jazz Bowl so it could be featured in their exhibition Viktor Schreckengost and 20th Century Design, Nov. 12-Feb 4. Mr. Schreckengost, 94, lives in Cleveland.

        Jazz Bowls were produced in two sizes. In 1993 a small version was sold by Cincinnati Art Galleries to the Fogg Museum at Harvard for a relatively modest $15,000, but because the Cleveland Museum was eager to have the bowl for its retrospective exhibition, and because there was competition for the bowl, the bidding was lively, Mr. Humler said. The $121,000 price includes a 10 percent buyer's premium.

        The Jazz Bowl, a major example of Art Deco art, was designed by Mr. Schreckengost after a visit to New York. It features jazzy, cubist images inspired by Times Square, Radio City Music Hall and the Cotton Club. The word “Jazz” is seen on a drumhead on the bowl. It measures 161/4 inches in diameter and is 111/4 inches high.

        Although all Jazz Bowls feature the same design, there are variations from one bowl to another and only a few are signed.

        Although it is one of the highest prices paid at action for American ceramics, it is not a record. The record is $198,000 paid for a Rookwood Pottery vase by Kataro Shirayamadani at Cincinnati Art Galleries' auction of the Glover Collection in 1991.