A Universe of Things

Micky Wolfson, the founder of The Wolfsonian–FIU in Miami Beach, has become a great friend to WMODA and to our founder Arthur Wiener. This year, Micky turns 80 and Arthur has presented him with a spectacular birthday present – a Fairyland Lustre vase depicting the Dragon King. The Wolfsonian has organized a fascinating exhibition to honor their founder’s diverse collection, A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects. The museum has partnered also with the City of Miami Beach to throw a blowout block party under the stars on November 14.

Revelers at the “Universe of Micky” block party will enjoy food trucks, a birthday dessert, and cash bars. Micky-worthy pomp, circumstance, and fanfare will be provided by the FIU Marching Band and a free concert by the Nu Deco Ensemble, Miami’s music royalty. There will also be an Airstream lighting activation from Lutron taking place at the block party on 10th street between Washington and Collins Avenues.
Free tickets with registration .

Micky Wolfson has donated his life’s work as a collector - an estimated 150,000 objects - to The Wolfsonian. Over the course of the last three decades, an astounding diversity of materials has arrived in Miami Beach from all over the globe. Stained glass windows and paintings, vases and sideboards, posters, prints, books, and ephemera fill warehouses. They arrive in massive crates, wrapped boxes, or shopping bags, all to be cataloged, researched, preserved, studied, and perhaps exhibited or published. Suitcases of documentation—invoices, receipts, notes on napkins, and more—are sifted through and archived for future scholarship. Beloved icons and unexpected finds feature in the new exhibition A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects, and the Wolfsonian curators have examined Micky’s life of collecting by exploring how objects form networks that connect across time and cultures.

British ceramic art has not been a major focus of Micky Wolfson’s collecting history, which is why Arthur Wiener decided to donate an important Wedgwood vase to Micky in honor of his 80th birthday. The Dragon King · Temple on a Rock vase stands 19 1/4 inches tall and is the second-largest Fairyland Lustre design by Daisy Makeig-Jones. It will go on display in The Wolfsonian during Micky’s birthday celebrations. The Fairyland Lustre exhibit at WMODA was one of the highlights of Micky Wolfson’s visit to the museum in March 2017. He wrote to Louise Irvine, the Executive Director & Curator of WMODA, “You and your museum left me breathless. What a brilliant accomplishment. You and your sponsor deserve an ovation for a vision exceedingly well promoted. I am full of awe and wonder and admiration for the collector's taste and tenacity and your curatorship.” Since that visit, a bond of shared goals and values has been forged between Micky, Arthur, and the WMODA and Wolfsonian teams.

The story of the Fairyland Dragon King vase appears in Glimpses of Fairyland, published in 1921 to publicize Wedgwood’s luster range. The Dragon King is a mixture of Chinese folklore and Daisy’s own fanciful dreamland. In Daisy’s vision, the Great Dragon King presides over the Eastern Sea where iridescent buildings tower up to heaven, their towers, and turrets lost in the opal mist. The Dragon King sits on a rock waiting for the local fishermen to bring him saki, which he loves, in exchange for gold, pearls, and coral. He lives in a lovely cave made of opal moonstones at the bottom of the sea and guards the night-shimmering pearl which controls the tides. There are flowers in the cave and gold and silverfish that can speak. In the middle of the cave grows a herb which gives immunity from death to whoever eats it. No one has found the cave or the herb as the Dragon King doesn’t like visitors and causes earthquakes or contrary winds when they approach.

Dragons had a special attraction for Daisy Makeig-Jones and saurian creatures would creep into her work even while she was sketching at the seaside. Evidently, she had the sinuous Coiling Dragon that ruled the waters in mind. Her depictions on Wedgwood’s lusterware range from Cruel Dragons to Rain Dragons to Celestial Dragons. In her story of the Bubbles design, she talks about the redemption of the Celestial dragon who used to devour the little children created in bubbles by Kwannon, the Divine Mother. Benten, the Goddess of Love, Fine Arts, and Meritorious works was sent to earth to marry the dragon and with her infinite compassion taught him to abstain from human flesh. Eventually, he ascended to heaven as a celestial dragon. However, Daisy could obviously not resist visualizing the creature’s carnivorous propensities and a green dragon with an unfortunate imp in its jaws can be seen in the Dragon King vase.

Traditionally in Chinese culture, Celestial dragons have auspicious powers and represent the deified forces of nature. They symbolize power, strength, and good luck unlike the malevolent destructive, fire-breathing dragons of western folklore. In the days of Imperial China, the Emperor used the dragon as his personal emblem. Nowadays excellent, outstanding people are compared to a dragon which makes the Dragon King gift to Micky Wolfson most appropriate.