Throughout history, teapots were commissioned to bear portraits of the wealthy patrons. They operated as a symbol of status in high society. The portraits chosen for Lugo's works depict Civil Rights leaders, hip hop artists, musicians, writers, and cultural figures representative of Black and Latinx culture. Their likeness is elevated to a space that was historically inaccessible to people of color, stripping the teapot of its Euro-centric roots.

Known for his graffiti-inspired porcelain sculptures, Roberto Lugo’s work centers around the notion of representation. Specifically, representing the culture and struggles faced within Black and Latinx communities through the lens of craft history. Drawing from iconic forms, such as an urn or a teapot, Lugo works with the existing associations inherent to a form, while adding his own stylized imagery and content. The result is a complex, contradictory body of work that embodies both poverty and resilience as well as opulence and wealth. He combines status symbols from European society and urban America to create works of art that cross boundaries and weave together seemingly disparate cultures into one multifaceted vision.

Robert Lugo

2021 Delphi Award Recipient

Ceramicist Roberto Lugo hails from a tradition of street art, using his keen talents to explore historical inequalities. He is a self-described ghetto potter and activist. Lugo throws and hand builds with a variety of clay, shaping exceptionally crafted vessels, teapots and plates molded and decorated in the Euro-Asian tradition, but with a twist.  Instead of bygone royalty adorning his work, he honors underrepresented people of color. Lugo says that he puts portraits on his pots in order to “recontextualize history”. And his art is defined by curator Glenn Adamson as “masking old techniques in order to better redeploy them.”

Lugo holds an MFA from Penn State, and a BFA in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute.  His work has been featured in the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other galleries and museums. He is the recipient of various awards, including the 2019 Pew Fellowship, the 2018 Artist of the Year by the Ceramics Arts Network and has been awarded a U.S. Artist Award.  Additionally, he has been a lecturer and visiting artist at many art schools across the country and is known for his generosity in helping to advance the careers of fellow artists of color.

Rago is privileged to participate in this exceptional event, celebrating these extraordinary artists and supporting one of our nation’s most important cultural institutions.

Suzanne Perrault

The Smithsonian Women's Committee Visionary Benefit Auction

Works Sold to Benefit The Smithsonian Institution

Rago is pleased to include The Smithsonian Women’s Committee Visionary Benefit Auction within our Modern Design sale on May 14th. This special section features works created by past and present Smithsonian Visionary Artists and by the winners of the new Smithsonian Women’s Committee Delphi Award.

The Smithsonian Visionary Award, established in 2014, is presented annually to artists who are deemed by curators in the field to have risen to the pinnacle in the world of sculptural arts and design, who have works in major museums, and who have demonstrated distinction, creativity, artistry, and, of course, vision in his or her respective medium.  

David Ellsworth and Michael Hurwitz, 2021 recipients of the Visionary Award, join the small but prestigious list of past recipients: Patti Warashina, Joyce J. Scott, Faith Ringgold, Dale Chihuly, Toots Zynsky, Wendell Castle, and Albert Paley.

All lots in the Visionary Benefit Auction are of the primary market, unless otherwise indicated. The auction raises funds to support projects and initiatives across the Smithsonian institution. All works will be shipped directly from the artist or the gallery.