Finders Keepers: Leading art dealer, Adrian Sassoon, collects contemporary ceramics and is a world expert in French 18th-century porcelain. He shares with Ros Byam Shaw the stories of two extraordinary discoveries, both particularly personal.



British art dealer, Adrian Sassoon, photographed by Sylvain Deleu 


At the age of 19, fresh from school, Adrian Sassoon went to work as an intern at The Getty Museum in Malibu, an internship which turned into a job. Five years later he returned to London where he served an apprenticeship with a leading antique dealer for a further five years before setting up on his own in 1992, aged 31.

He has since become a leading dealer himself, specialising in contemporary works of art notable for their superb craftsmanship, whether in ceramics, precious metals, glass, lacquer or hard stone, selling both to museums and private collectors. He is also a world expert on French 18th-century porcelain, principally Vincennes and Sevres, and has a collection of exceptional pieces gathered over many years.


"A dream to work with": Adrian's 'greatest find', Kate Malone © Alun Callender


My Greatest Find: Ceramic artist Kate Malone

“I hope you will allow me to choose an artist rather than an object, even though to say I ‘discovered’ the ceramic artist Kate Malone would be a bit mad. She already had an international audience when I first saw her work on display at Contemporary Applied Arts in Covent Garden back in 1994. I loved what I saw - all her pieces have such originality combined with exceptional quality and skill.

"I wrote to her and then we met in her North London studio. That was 30 years ago, and she has been a meaningful part of my life ever since. I have been lucky enough to represent her in my gallery, but we also have a friendship that is very important to me.

"As well as having the highest possible artistic standards - both in terms of aesthetics and execution - she is also a kind, natural, modest, open and welcoming person, who loves to share her knowledge and has no sense of greed or competitiveness.

"I mustn’t preach, but she really is a dream to work with, and we have just produced a wonderful book of her work. Sitting here in my office, I have a wall of 18th century porcelain opposite my desk, and 17 pieces by Kate on another wall. And nothing else decorative, unless you count a box of tissues!”


A beautifully painted broth bowl, c.1750, which Adrian coveted for 20 years © Sylvain Deleu


The Piece I'll Keep Forever: 18th-century broth bowl

“When I was 16 I persuaded my mother to take me to the sale of the contents of Mentmore, the Rothschild mansion in Buckinghamshire. It was a massive, glamorous, game-changing auction, and among the items for sale were pieces of 18th-century Vincennes and Sevres porcelain, including my ecuelle, or broth bowl.

"It was bought by The British Railways Pension Fund, who collected outstanding works of art in the 1970s, and they subsequently loaned it to the V&A. I used to visit often and this particular piece captivated my attention. It dates from about 1750 and is very rare because of the way the knop of the cover is modelled with a fish, a leek, a clamshell and a mushroom - the ingredients of a fish broth. It is beautifully painted, not overly formal, with wonderfully flowing garlands, and a blue that gets one buzzing. At the time it was made it would have been a piece of exceptional luxury.

"I looked at it for 20 years - there was probably a sweaty little nose mark on the glass case left by me - and then in 1988 I was able to buy it. I have treasured it ever since - it was the one piece I hid when I was selling my collection of Vincennes porcelain to the French National Museum of Ceramics at Sevres. Now I can look at it from my desk.”

Adrian's 'keeper': Rare, painted broth bowl, French, c.1750, pictured right