The Wiener Legacy at WMODA

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” In this spirit, Arthur Wiener is donating most of his ceramics and glass art collection to the Wiener Museum of Decorative Art in South Florida and has funded its establishment and development for the last five years. Most Doulton collectors have heard of Arthur Wiener and WMODA and many have made a pilgrimage to Dania Beach to see the world’s largest collection of Royal Doulton.

Arthur Wiener acquired his first piece of pottery in 1965 when he traveled to London as a young college graduate, armed with Frommer’s seminal guidebook Europe on $5 a day. He blew his daily budget on a Royal Doulton character jug of Merlin the magician, which caught his eye in a china shop window because of the Star of David image on the handle. The shopkeeper tried to persuade Arthur that Merlin was Jewish and although he was not convinced, he bought the piece. Merlin certainly cast a spell on Arthur as he went on to become an avid collector of Royal Doulton.

In the early years, Arthur Wiener scoured antique shows, such as Atlantic City, where he met specialist ceramics dealers, including Ed Pascoe and Arron Rimpley, who have helped him build his collection. Arron has worked with Arthur for 25 years and facilitated the museum opening at his Gallery of Amazing Things. Since its opening in 2014, WMODA has grown into a world-class museum, spanning 20,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with stunning ceramic and glass art. 5-star reviews in TripAdvisor have resulted in many accolades and WMODA has recently been nominated for the 2019 Family and Visitor Attraction Awards hosted by Lux Life Magazine.

Many of Arthur’s rare prototype character jugs are on display in the Royal Doulton Gallery at WMODA, including movie stars from the Celebrities collection that did not go into production. Arthur was delighted to find a unique flambé glazed version of his original Merlin jug which currently has pride of place in the Fantastique exhibit at WMODA. Arthur is also an admirer of Sir Winston Churchill and has several rare prototype pieces depicting the great British statesman.

After focusing on character jugs for a few years, Arthur began collecting Royal Doulton figurines. He particularly loves the early child studies in the HN collection. Shy Ann is one of his favorites and he has found her in many different colorways. Another piece with a special place in Arthur’s heart is the Fisherwomen or Waiting for the Boats by Charles J. Noke.  He thinks about the wives waiting patiently for the return of their menfolk from their days at sea. The subject is familiar to him from his collection of marine paintings, notably Awaiting the Return of the Fishing Fleet by Robert Kemm RSA. As well as the production models in the HN collection, Arthur seeks out unique prototypes as he is thrilled to own rare, one of a kind pieces.  The walls of his New York lounge are lined with cabinets of extreme rarities and many are on show at WMODA in exhibitions such as Carnival & Cabaret. 

In addition to his vast collection of Royal Doulton figures and character jugs, Arthur became fascinated with the art pottery produced at Doulton’s Victorian studios in Lambeth.  He amassed a huge collection of terracotta panels by George Tinworth, Doulton’s first studio artist, and the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah is a key exhibit at WMODA. Visitors are charmed also by the display of Tinworth’s sculptures of mice and frogs engaged in human pursuits. Arthur loves the work of the Barlow sisters and has acquired many examples of Hannah’s incised animal studies and Florence’s pâte-sur-pâte bird designs. He particularly likes Hannah’s exotic animals, such as kangaroos, and Florence’s rare four-legged friends. Other favorite Lambeth artists include Mary Mitchell, who specialized in scenes of women and children incised on stoneware, and Linnie Watt, who portrayed the same subjects on Lambeth Faience plaques and vases. Arthur also appreciates the flowing art nouveau designs of Frank Butler, who was both deaf and dumb. Arthur is deeply moved by these afflictions and marvels at the way Butler communicated so effectively through his ceramic art.

Over the years, Arthur has acquired important works from famous private collections, including some of the Harriman-Judd treasures shown at The Doulton Story exhibition at the V & A in 1979 and sold through Sotheby’s in New York in 2001. Some of his spectacular Sung pieces came from the Bearman collection in Arizona. Many of the unique Royal Doulton pieces at WMODA have come from the company’s extensive collection, formerly exhibited at the Sir Henry Doulton Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.  They were sold at auction by Phillips, now Bonhams of London between 1999 and 2006. Among the trophies from these sales are works by the Lambeth sculptor Mark V. Marshall, who produced stoneware vases and sculptures entwined with reptilian creatures, and Richard Garbe, the illustrious Art Deco sculptor.

The largest piece in the WMODA collection is a colossal six feet tall Doulton Faience vase, commissioned by the Gaekwar of Baroda in 1893. The twin of this vase was exhibited at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and is now at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Arthur has acquired many impressive exhibition pieces made for the world fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries. He has not just one but four Dante Vases produced at Doulton’s Burslem studio, two Love Vases made for the Chicago Exhibition in 1893, and the Diana Vase shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1900. Arthur also loves the beautiful bone china vases hand-painted by the Burslem studio artists. His favorite artist is George White, who was renowned for painting ethereal maidens in diaphanous drapes.

Arthur has traveled frequently to the UK to visit the Potteries that he admires. On Collectors Tours, he has walked in the footsteps of George Tinworth at Lambeth. He has toured the Royal Doulton and Wedgwood factories and has enjoyed meeting many of the talented ceramic artists working around the country today. Arthur does not seek the limelight but has been persuaded occasionally to give talks to fellow collectors on Collectors Cruises and at other events to promote his museum which gives him vicarious pleasure and great pride. He is very keen to share his life-long passion for collecting and leave a legacy for future generations to enjoy. He wants to give back to the country who took in his father and mother, Lithuanian refugees from war-torn Europe whose family died in the Holocaust. Paul Wiener was a dental technician who melted his family’s gold watch to start his business in Brooklyn. His wife Rose labored as a seamstress to make ends meet. Together they raised a successful family of lawyers, doctors, and business entrepreneurs.  Arthur is the eldest son and studied law at Boston College. He and his wife, Paulette, have four children and two grandchildren.

“I want to share my love for the fired arts and leave a legacy to educate and inspire future generations about the importance of art in our lives and culture” Arthur Wiener.