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Kurt Spurey

(b. 1941) born in  Mariazell, Austria, lives in Wein, Austria
Form NR21, 1973
porcelain, 13 x 12 x 2.75 inches, 93.39.43

Kurt Spurey studied silicate technology at the Technical and Commercial Institute in Vienna, Austria, after which he married fellow Austrian ceramicist Gerda Gruber in 1962. Together they founded a studio with college friends Iris Brandel and Elisabeth Schaffner, which ran until Gerda and Kurt established their own studio that focused on porcelain designs, which was active from 1969 to 1975. In addition, Spurey also worked at the ÖSPAG porcelain design studio from 1968 to 1971.

Following the death of its founder Kurt Ohnsorg in 1970, Spurey stepped up as the art director of the Verband International Ceramic Symposia, the body organizing the European International Ceramic Symposiums. During his tenure from 1970 to 1978, Spurey helped to coordinate International Ceramic Symposia across Austria, Italy, Sweden, and the United States.

In the spring of 1971, under the auspices of the International Academy of Ceramics, the Tennessee Arts Commission pledged its support for the promotion and establishment of the U.S. International Ceramic Symposiums. The Symposium’s mission to help develop a worldwide network of support for ceramic art was achieved by bringing together top ceramic artists from around the world for a month-long sharing of ideas and creation of innovative ceramics.


Left: Kurt Spurey (L) , former First Lady Betty Dunn of Tennessee (R) and in the background is “Relief” by Gerda Spurey,  image is in the 1973 ICS catalogue, Center: “Kurt Spurey (Austria) assembles a porcelain form using slabs that were cast from slip on plaster bats.” (Ceramics Monthly) Right: Kurt Spurey and Gerda Gruber (Spurey)

Alongside his wife Gerda, Kurt Spurey represented Austria at the First U.S. International Ceramic Symposium, which consisted of twenty-five artists from thirteen different countries, and was hosted in the summer of 1973 at the Memphis Academy of Art. While participating in the Symposium, the Spureys worked together, producing elegant organic works in porcelain that were assembled out of multiple thin poured porcelain slabs. They created numerous free standing-sculptures as well as two wall reliefs, all of which were fired with a colorless glaze to draw attention to the curves of the form. Of the Symposium, Spurey said, “the basic idea behind the Ceramic Symposium can, perhaps, be best expressed in the form of a paradox: very individualistic togetherness. Working side by side turns into working together. There are discussions not just before a particular piece is begun or after it is finished. Friendly discussions go on during the entire creative process.[1]

Following the Symposium, Kurt Spurey toured the U.S., Canada, and Israel as a lecturer until 1975, when he and Gerda divorced. He then continued to produce work from his Vienna studio as well as participate in a number of artist residencies across Europe. From 1988-1989, he briefly taught at the University of Applied Sciences Niederrhein in Krefeld, Germany. In the time since Spurey kept working as a ceramic artist, creating work for sale, exhibition, and public installation. Currently, Spurey is active in producing ceramic work, and continues to travel internationally to further develop his art.

Spurey has work in the collections of the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the Hetjens Museum Düsseldorf, Germany; the International Ceramics Museum in Faenza, Italy; the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague, Czech Republic; the Danish Industrial Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark; the Museum of Modern Ceramics in Mino, Japan; the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan; the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, New York; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. He is a recipient of the 2010 Salzberg Ceramics Prize and the 2012 Vienna Künstlerhaus Golden Laurel. He is a member of the Vienna Künstlerhaus and MAERZ Austrian artist association.

Kurt and his wife, Gerda, work consistently as a team. “We have worked for many years only in porcelain because we find it is the right material for us. We work mostly in sculptures.” – 1973 International Ceramic Symposium catalogue

[1] Hyman, Sylvia. International Ceramic Symposium—Memphis ’73. Ceramics Monthly. December 1973

Written by Aiden Layer, TN Arts Intern