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A ceramicist of nowhere: Edmund de Waal’s art of empathy

The potter reflects on how art can change the world

Edmund de Waal's works are on display at the Frick Collection in New York, and will be show at the British Museum next year. Illustration: Tim McDonagh

In the colonnaded central courtyard at the Frick Collection in New York, Edmund de Waal seems a little agitated. It is morning on an early summer Thursday; gauzy light filters through the glass roof on to the glossy marble floors beneath. Perched on a metal chair next to a decorative fountain, De Waal—all gangly enthusiasm and English manners—is attempting to explain how intimidating…

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