Robert Arneson (1930-1992; USA)

Billy Tea is Made in a Bushman's Kettle
Stoneware; ht. 8, wd. 11, dp. 7.75 in.
Incised signature and date on the base of teapot.

Arneson’s teapots are extraordinary, their rampant spouts (with roughly carved pubic hair) and other orifices leave nothing to the imagination and they pushed the pornographic button even then. Today they are startlingly lewd.

An amusing Arneson touch is their titles. Arneson’s verbal visual play was significant in much of his art and language, often composed to increase shock or outrage. But with the teapots he mostly gave them polite titles from Australian tea drinking habits like Billy’s Tea is Made in a Bushman’s Kettle.

Their genesis is more profound than one might think given the domestic cliché of the teapot and the coy “naughtiness” of the spout. Teapots were a basis of rebirth. Arneson had become somewhat rudderless, he was taking on everything and yet concerned about a real direction. Amongst other things he wanted to “reacquaint myself with the material” and as Fineberg explains:  “Decided to ‘do some of the disciplinary projects I was unable to do when I went to art school. One of the problems was to do a teapot and I could never do it. So I tried to redeem myself.’  He made ‘thirty eight teapots in celebration of my thirty eight years…I adorned them with some of my personal styles, testicles or mouth, tongues. I mean just a lot of dumb stuff.’ He finished them up in 1969 and showed them at Allan Stone Gallery in 1969.”


Provenance: The Collection of Allan Stone, New York Arneson Estate Number 69.105.S Exhibited: New York, Allan Stone Gallery, Fetishism, October 25 - November 14, 1969.



Lose to glaze on body and foot of base. 

Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium